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Council coming close to deciding scope of liquor store project

The city council will wait just another day or two before deciding the scope of the proposed Silver Bay Lounge and Liquor Store project. Six bids for the renovation and expansion at the city-owned facility were opened early Tuesday, with most of the cost projections lumped between $829,000-$899,000, above the costs estimated by LHB Architectural, architects and engineers for the project.

The city will wait to hear back from the architects over concerns that the low bidder may not have complied with the specifications of the bid request. City attorney Wayne Johnson pointed out several issues within the bid that drew his attention, and the council asked the architects to look into the questions.

The council will reconvene the meeting Thursday afternoon to decide the bid award.

The bid request also included a less-expensive alternate request that leaves out the expansion of the lounge area, a part of the project that liquor store manager Tom "Charlie" Byrnes has urged is essential to the overall financial health of the facility. The lounge would lose quite a bit of space with the expansion of the off-sale portion of the building, potentially lowering revenues from the lounge side of the operation.

Council member Amber Dow said and Byrnes toured the building and she came away supporting the idea of completing the entire project.

"I will say, I don't like spending money," she said. "I've changed my opinion of the project. It's in the city's best interest to move with the add-on. It's a huge asset to the city."

The council is still debating just how to fund the project. The likely scenario appears to be funding up to half of the project from monies in the liquor fund and borrowing the other half through a low-interest loan program through The Lake Bank. The liquor fund has available assets of around $700,000.

There was some concern voiced over the architectural and engineering fees for the project, based partly on the engineers estimate of $750,000. The city may look at negotiating the fee with the company to reflect their estimate, not the final bid award price.

In other council business:

• At council's request, the city attorney will draw up a change to the city personnel policy restricting the use of city-owned vehicles for department heads to at-work use only. The policy wouldn't affect the police department. In the past, department heads have been allowed to take home the vehicles. Mayor Scott Johnson said the change wasn't a matter of abuse of the policy, it was a matter of professionalism within city government.

• Final interviews will begin this Thursday for the vacant city administrator position. There were 22 applicants and the council has narrowed that down to a field of five. The council is still looking at a number of issues regarding salary and wages as well as other benefits to the position, and are considering making it a contract position. Not all city administrators in the state are contract employees but some felt it was likely a way to spell out the terms of the position for both the employee and the city.

• The council also made an amendment to the city code regarding where the liquor store profits go. The city has annually allocated half of the yearly profits toward two other city departments, with one-third of that amount going into the Park and Recreation Department and two-thirds going to the public utilities fund. Apparently, nothing in the city code acknowledged that the council has the discretion to move monies to each of those funds.

• The council moved to support the establishment of a special taxing district for ambulance services within the city.