The Marana town hall is not quite the Taj Majal, but the scale and price of the building that the town broke ground on last month and the 20 acre planning area that surrounds it have jumped significantly.

A revised cost estimate forwarded to the Marana Town Council earlier this month saw the cost of the building and off-site improvements rocket up by more than $10 million and the square footage of the building grow by 27,637 feet.

The jump in price for the entire package from $22.1 million to $32.4 million is attributable mainly to a radical design change that altered the architecture of the building and which now incorporates two buildings instead of one, Marana planners say.

The estimated cost of the town hall buildings being built near Lon Adams and Barnett roads rose from $15.1 million to $22.8 million. The off-site projects, which extend north of the current town hall and include a $2.8 million fire station for the Northwest Fire and Rescue District that NWFD will repay the town for, rose by $2.6 million to an estimated price tag of $9.6 million.

Also coming into play are decisions such as adding adjacent neighborhoods onto the sewage system being installed, factoring the cost of furnishings for the town hall and the addition of a 911 dispatch center for the Marana Police department, said Marana Development Services Director Jim DeGrood.

"The sticker shock is also coming for a variety of other different reasons. One is that we're going through the guaranteed maximum price concept. We don't necessarily have to spend as much as we are authorized to spend. There are also still a lot of decisions that need to be made as to what we want in the project," DeGrood said. "We also have the conflicting feelings that we want to build something that's permanent and timeless and that sometimes conflicts with frugality."

DeGrood said the major design changes were decided on late last year after initial plans submitted to the council by Durrant Architects were met with a luke-warm response.

"I think the council was hoping for something a little more inspiring and permanent," he said.

The change in design, additions to the plans by the three members of the town council that constitutes the building committee and the addition of fees levied by the architect and builder that were not factored into the original cost estimate, also led to increases of the cost of the building that include:

An increase from zero to $120,000

for "misc. fees and permits."

An increase from zero to $120,000

for signage.

An increase from zero to $553,645

for audio/visual and security systems.

An increase from zero to $174,430

for public art.

An increase in design costs from

$970,680 to $1.3 million.

According to the cost estimate, the design change increased the cost of the building from $126 to $140 per square foot.

For the off-site area, which takes in such things as plazas, roads, sewer and utilities, the increases included:

An increase from $327,000 to $425,000

for the design.

An increase from zero to $435,000

in water system improvements.

An increase from zero to $407,600 to

place a portion of the existing Cortaro-

Marana Irrigation District canal underground.

An increase from zero to $125,000

for streetlights.

An increase from $300,000 to $515,000

for "enhanced" landscape and design fixtures.

An increase from $150,000 to $250,000

for "roundabout and monumentation."

DeGrood said the last item will place a monument in front of the town hall centered in a roundabout roadway.

"The type of monument has not been decided yet, but it should prove to be an interesting debate. One idea put forward so far has been a statute of a cotton picker, but I don't think they're even close to deciding what will go there," DeGrood said.

Councilmember Tim Escobedo, who along with Councilmembers Jim Blake and Patti Comerford constitute the town's building committee, said he understands some people may have a concern about the increase in scale and costs, "but previous estimates did not take into consideration a number of requirements necessary for the project. You can see that on the cost estimate by the items that shoot up from zero."

The design for the building also did not take into consideration the standards the town developed for the burgeoning region under the Northwest Marana Regional Plan the council approved two years ago.

"The design presented just didn't fit the Northwest Plan that had been created. It was just too futuristic," Escobedo said. "I think the changes were necessary and I'm comfortable with them. And while I can't speak for them, I believe the rest of the council is comfortable with the changes too."

Tim Allen, Marana's construction manager who is overseeing the project, said he believes the public also will be pleased with the changes made to the building that went from a fairly pedestrian three-story block-like building to a sweeping A-shaped plan of two and three stories with wings sweeping out to embrace a mall-like area.

"We're not out to rebuild the Taj Majal, but the previous design was just cold, almost sterile. When we went with the new design, it quickly became apparent that this would be something the public would respond to. It just took in the (adjacent Ora Mae Harn) Park, it provided public areas that people are going to want to use. We want this to be an area that invites you in, a place where you want to spend time," Allen said.

Paying for that sense of place is a matter that is still being formulated, said Roy Cuaron, Marana's Finance Director.

The town had originally acquired proceeds from a $10 million bond sale to pay for the town hall, but a portion of those funds went to pay for the purchase two years ago of Trico Electric Cooperative's old building on Ina Road. The building is now used as Marana's operation center.

Cuaron said he would recommend to the council applying the almost $6 million remaining from the original bond issue to construction now underway and consider selling new bonds for the balance.

"We have money to buy time while we make that decision. We're not going to spend $6 million in the next couple of months. I expect we will probably make a decision on the rest of the funding sometime in the next 90 days," Cuaron said.

The bonds would be sold through the nonprofit Marana Municipal Property Corporation. Repayment would be made from Marana's excise tax revenue, which includes state shared revenue and sales tax, Cuaron said.

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