Atherton's City Council held a special joint meeting with its Civic Center Advisory Committee on Nov. 7 to discuss energy and water-saving features and costs of the project, but spent much of the meeting talking about a donor's wish that the town take another look at some of the nearly completed plans.
Didi Fisher, who is a member of the advisory committee and co-chair of Atherton Now, the group raising funds for the civic center, said $3 million in donations is at stake.
One of the concerns, she said, is the lobby, which as now designed is a 28-foot-by- 58-foot space connecting the police department with the rest of the town's offices.
"It's too grand," said Ms. Fisher.
"He perceives it's excessive," said Mayor Elizabeth Lewis, who is also on the board of Atherton Now.
Council member Bill Widmer agreed. "My two cents," he said, "I think the lobby is a little big." He said it should be reduced by 800 square feet by pushing in what is now the exterior wall, and leaving part of the current lobby as covered outdoor space.
However, WRNS Studio architect Adam Woltag said exterior finishes cost more than interior finishes, so changing interior space into exterior space could add to the cost of the building, not reduce it.
The donor also has asked the town to look again at the costs of renovating the historic council chambers so the space could continue to be used as a meeting place for the council, as opposed to the current plan that calls for building a new council chamber and renovating the historic building as an auxiliary of a new library.
That option was rejected by the town and the advisory committee more than a year ago when it was determined that it would cost nearly as much to renovate and upgrade the existing building as to construct a new building.
Because the renovated council chambers will become part of the library, which already has its funding in place, the town doesn't have to raise money to pay for it.
Councilman Rick DeGolia, who is a member of the governing board of the joint powers authority that runs the county library system that the Atherton Library is part of, said the board won't authorize the use of library funds to renovate the historic building if it's not part of the library. Currently, the building is to be the library's community meeting room and house the town's history collection, plus a small cafe or kitchen.
"I don't believe we can redo this as a council chambers and have the library pay for it," Mr. DeGolia said.
In the end, the council did not ask the architects to change the plans, but instead asked the contractor estimating the costs of project to come up with a report.
"The reality also is we're going to go out for public financing," Mayor Elizabeth Lewis said. "I think everybody's agreed on that."
Steve Dostart, chair of the advisory committee, defended the current design. "I think it's a phenomenal project," he said. "It's in keeping with what the town is."
Mayor Lewis agreed. "I don't think anybody ... thinks what we have here is overstated," or too grand, she said.