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Contractor hired to build Community Center
It's official: J.L. Bray & Sons is the contractor for the new Ceres Community Center project.

Councilmembers awarded the contract last week.

Bray was the lowest of nine bidders, winning with a bid of $6,845,000.

Construction on the 25,623-square-foot Community Center is expected to start soon, with completion in March 2009.

The project comes with a 10 percent construction contingency, or $684,500.

City staff members and project manager Harris and Associates asked for the power to authorize change orders up to $75,000 for fear that awaiting council approval for change orders - they usually meet every two weeks - could hold up construction and drive up costs. However, councilmembers stopped short of handing off that power to city staff.

There was some discussion of change orders before the council came down to a 4-1 vote. Only Vice Mayor Rob Phipps supported staff approval of change orders.

Planning and Community Development Director Ken Craig noted that he oversaw construction of a $28 million project in Livermore and was able to approve change orders up to $200,000.

Mayor Anthony Cannella said he was "nervous about the arrangement," and pointed out that the city never did business that way.

Councilman Chris Vierra was also reluctant and said change orders generally don't move faster than the timing of council meetings anyway.

City Manager Brad Kilger said it's common on projects of this size to have staff approve change orders but said he wanted the council to feel comfortable about it.

"It doesn't hurt my feelings," said Kilger. He did suggest lowering the change order limit to $25,000.

Since the council is responsible for the spending of tax dollars, said Councilman Ken Lane, he wanted the council to approve change orders.

Phipps felt otherwise, saying, "We're not here to micro-manage."

Cannella was quick to say the council isn't micro-managing by controlling change orders. He said the city has never allowed change orders without council approval.

Doug Lemcke, director of Parks, Recreation and Facilities, said the two-story center will be a key community focal point where large crowd can gather for speakers and plays, where seniors can play cards, where teens can host activities, and where the public can learn arts and engage in recreation. The city will use the faciilty for recreation programs such as aerobics, fitness classes, yoga, self defense, boxing and pilates - all with professional instructors. It's his intent to offer fingerpainting, oil painting, knitting, crocheting and other arts and crafts activities.

The city has planned for an enlarged assembly room of 3,354 square feet to have a City Council dais, which can be sealed off by a moveable wall for other uses.

Removing the council chambers from its existing location allows the city to use the space for more offices.

A large assembly hall, which will be 5,082 square feet in size, will be rented out for parties and wedding receptions. The room can be set up to seat 315 theater style.

On the first floor will be a 746-square-foot computer room with 12 computers for use by the community. Lemcke anticipates instructors teaching the use of computer programs and the internet.

A 754-square-foot room will be where senior citizens can gather to play cards and bingo and have lunch, as they presently do at the Ceres American Legion Memorial Building.

The first floor contains office space for city recreation staff members and another conference room for public meeting use that totals 433 square feet, large enough to accommodate 29 people.

The second floor will contain another 726-square-foot meeting room, a classroom to seat 44 persons, a recreation/fitness room, teen activity room and arts and crafts room.

The city is investing $6.2 million - from redevelopment agency issued bond indebtedness - to build the center.

The quest to build a community center has taken years. The city intended to remodel the former Ceres Christian Church building into the new Ceres Community Center. The city shelled out $1 million for the property. But after a series of public meetings where details of a rehabilitation were hammered out, the city rethought investing lots of money into an old building that had serious constraints.