Budget analyst: Ask voters to weigh in on city hall plan

The City Council should place a referendum on the November ballot asking voters whether a new City Hall should be built, the city’s independent budget analyst recommended today.

According to the IBA, it would cost $40 million less to build a new City Hall under a recently unveiled, scaled-down plan than to maintain the current building for another 10 years.

Even in the next several budget years, the city’s debt-ridden budget would be impacted less by constructing a new building than trying to maintain the current structure.

The project, which would be developed by Portland-based Gerding Edlen, calls for a 19-story, 576,000-square-foot building at the site of Golden Hall, next to the existing City Hall. It would include a 400-seat council chamber on the second floor and a 1.25-acre public plaza.

The proposal is about half the size of a previous plan.

The City Council will consider the project Monday.

Opponents of building a new City Hall contend the nearly $300 million price tag is too much at a time when the city is laying off employees and reducing services.

However, the IBA found that the city would save $200,000 to $400,000 annually over the next few fiscal years by going ahead with the construction.

Mayor Jerry Sanders said it would cost $37 million to maintain the existing 13-story City Hall.

City Councilman Todd Gloria called the building “a disaster area” at a recent meeting.

The city houses numerous employees in leased office space, so the new building would allow officials to consolidate and save money being spent on rent payments.

The IBA recommended placing the project before the voters, but postponing any moves on financing until after the election. The agency recommended using a lease-revenue method to finance the project.

If the City Council agrees to put the project on the ballot, and voters approve it, construction would begin in January 2012 and be completed in 2014.