SLO Council approves $760,000 downtown renovation
November 17, 2011
By SYDNEY RAY
The San Luis Obispo City Council approved a $761,500 renovation project of a two-block stretch of Higuera Street downtown to be started next year.
By a 3-2 vote Tuesday, the Council awarded a $646,000 contract to the Madonna Construction Company to replace the sidewalks between Morro and Garden streets with mission-style tiles and to install lighting in trees in a project dubbed the “Downtown Beautification and Maintenance Project.” The contract exceeded the March 2011 project estimate of $590,000.
Council member Dan Carpenter argued against use of general fund money to close the $121,000 gap between the total cost and the contract awarded. Carpenter voted for the plan, however, when Mayor Jan Marx and Vice Mayor John Ashbaugh agreed to cut $25,000 designated for a project liaison and to take the remaining $96,000 from other capital improvement projects.
“I’m honoring the decision the previous council made in committing the project to be 600,000 plus,” Carpenter said.
Council members Kathy Smith and Andrew Carter held firm in their rejection of the project, even after Carpenter’s proposed cuts.
“I think the only difference between what was proposed by staff and what we passed was $25,000 for a liaison, so I don’t see that as any great improvement to the financial status of this project,” Smith said. “I don’t think we can afford to do the nice to have projects at this time.”
Public comment speaker Jody Frey agreed.
“Lately it seems like we’ve been getting projects like the parking that was $11,000 and now it’s 4102,500,” Frey said. “We’re looking at making a deal with Chevron for $11.1 million, so I’m just wondering where all this money is coming from.”
Despite economic concerns, most members of the public who spoke during public comment agreed with Marx and Ashbaugh that the spending was necessary.
“It is not the fault of city staff that the bid came in higher than the estimate,” Marx said. “It is the fault of the recovering economy.”
Marx said that the time to invest is now and she expects the economy to quickly improve.