Awarding the contract to renovate Town Hall and build the new police station was supposed to have been a noncontroversial item. The Fairfax City Council had approved the project, and city voters had approved a bond for the construction.
But the bond is for about $17.9 million, and the lowest bid for the construction is about $19.5 million. The bid does not include another estimated $2.1 million in furnishings and other equipment.
"We're at a $3.6 million shortfall with no contingency," said Robert Sisson, city manager, during a work session after the Jan. 26 Council meeting. Sisson estimates that the city should have another $800,000 in contingency, or reserve, funds set aside for the projects.
"We are considering rebidding the project," Sisson said, but that does not mean that the bids would be any better. The city received three bids, the higher two were for $19.9 million and $21.9 million, Sisson said.
"I think rebidding it would be the last thing we would want to do," said Councilmember Gary Rasmussen, citing the relatively high bids.
Sisson said that he has begun discussions with the project architects about possible ways of scaling back the buildings without sacrificing quality.
Other possibilities to try to make the project work could include cuts in the furnishing budget or funding the project through the city's budget process. Sisson expects to present the Council with a list of possible options at its next meeting.
DURING THE BUSINESS meeting, the City Council discussed an application to use extra properties along Chain Bridge Road and Orchard Street for car storage.
Currently, land along Orchard Street and around the Bombay Bistro restaurant are used by Brown's Honda for storing its excess inventory. The lot accommodates 216 cars, according to documents provided by city planning staff.
Brown's bought three additional lots along Orchard Street, which would allow the storage of 189 more cars.
The lots are part of an area designated as the "Northfax Gateway." The gateway is a total of 23 lots that the city envisions being redeveloped with three- to five-story buildings along Chain Bridge Road, which is a major entrance to the city from the north.
In exchange for being granted permission to use the lots, Brown's would install a 12-foot strip of landscaping including a variety of trees along Chain Bridge Road. Behind the trees would be a board-on-board fence with brick accents.
The fence is currently chain-link and is much more than 12 feet from the sidewalk.
Along Orchard Street, the car dealership would construct the fence, without the brick, and plant a row of cypress trees. If approved, the use permit would be valid for three years with the potential for two-year extensions.
"The only advantage to this that I see is cleaning up what I consider to be one of the most blighted sites in the City of Fairfax," said Mayor Robert Lederer.
Lederer also pointed out that at an outreach meeting over a year ago, Brown's proposed building the screening where the current fence is, farther back from the street. "I'm trying to figure out how we lost that green space," Lederer said.
Councilmember R. Scott Silverthorne questioned how allowing Brown's to use the lot is in sync with the redevelopment plan for that area. Once the Council permits the use of the lot, he suspects that it is likely to allow it to continue.
Instead, he suggested the Council should take a more restrictive view of the property. "By limiting the uses, you actually inspire them to go forward with a redevelopment," he said. "If you give them economic incentive to keep them as parking lots, they'll leave them as parking lots."
The location of the fence could be adjusted, said John Napolitano, who spoke on behalf of Brown's. "If the whole thing is contingent upon adding more green space, we can add more green space," he said.
Councilmember Jeffrey Greenfield noted that Brown's had not met with neighbors. "If I had to vote on this tonight, I'd vote 'No,'" he said. Greenfield moved to defer the decision until Feb. 8, so that the concerns of the Council can be addressed and a new plan can be submitted. The motion was passed unanimously.