The Metro Council deferred a vote Wednesday to accept a construction bid for a $900,000 sculptural canopy to cover a stage in Town Square’s Galvez Plaza.
The vote to defer came after another vote to approve the stage canopy failed.
Council members Joel Boé, Trae Welch, Chandler Loupe, Donna Collins-Lewis and Tara Wicker supported the vote to approve the low bid for the stage cover.
Council members Ulysses “Bones” Addison, Scott Wilson, Mike Walker, Alison Gary and Rodney “Smokie” Bourgeois voted against the item.
Council members Ronnie Edwards and C. Denise Marcelle were absent.
Addison said he had serious concerns about the parish’s Department of Public Works staff negotiating the original low bid price down from $1.8 million to $900,000.
The sculptural stage cover had a budget of $900,000, but the initial bids came in at more than double that cost.
Arrighi Construction Co., the low bidder, then negotiated with the city-parish and changed its construction methods to bring down its price to meet the project’s budget.
“I’m not comfortable with it,” Addison said, who also cited concerns that cutting corners could result in an unsafe structure for the public.
Trey Trahan, an architect who designed the stage cover, said in addition to being an iconic sculpture for downtown, the canopy would be fully functional to meet the unique performance needs of bands and speakers coming to Galvez Plaza.
He noted that while outside stages are only in use “less than 10 percent of the time,” the design of the structure fills in the void of what would otherwise be an “ugly foundation.”
Trahan said his staff met with several local performance producers to get input on what their needs were for a stage canopy.
But Johnny Palazzotto, a local Baton Rouge producer who has put on shows like the Baton Rouge Blues Festival, emailed council members Wednesday, urging them to vote against the stage canopy.
“Your vote for this canopy will be against what is best for Baton Rouge!” he wrote. “The stage with the canopy DOES NOT meet production requirements for touring artists we were hoping would play in Town Square.”
Councilwoman Tara Wicker complimented the design of the stage cover.
“You gave us a structure that brings a lot of class to the downtown area that’s functional and flexible,” she said. “Many of us who have traveled across the country look back at our photo albums and see sculptures that are beautiful like this. I really believe this is a work of art.”
John Carpenter, chief administrative officer to East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Kip Holden, said staff would use the next two weeks to respond to the council members’ concerns about the stage canopy before it comes back up for a vote.
In other business:
MAIN LIBRARY: The council voted to accept the low construction bid for the new Independence Park Main Library building.
The low bid, submitted by Milton J. Womack, Inc., originally came in at $36,770,000, which was about $1 million under budget.
Last month Councilman Chandler Loupe asked for the project to be deferred because he wanted the bid to reflect the project’s savings if it were to take advantage of the city-parish’s sales tax exemption.
Capital projects paid for by a dedicated tax can waive sales taxes, but the city-parish has historically not taken advantage of the provision.
Jim Frey, Public Works architect, told the council Wednesday the library system would save about $1.4 million if it took advantage of the sales tax exemption.
The council ultimately voted to accept the bid with the sales tax savings.
Taking advantage of sales tax exemption means capital projects will be less expensive, but it also means that the tax money would not go to the school system and the city-parish general fund.
“It’s the right move at the end of the day to try to save taxpayers money,” Councilman Boé said.
Boé also tried to further cut the cost of the project by deleting three alternates, which were included in the project bid at a cost of about $2 million.
The project alternates were mostly energy saving initiatives intended to improve the building’s green certification, which included a rainwater collection system, a green roof which helps insulate the building, and solar panels as well as some construction upgrades.
Boé said many of the items in the alternates could be considered a “wish list.” The council ultimately voted to keep the alternates in the project.
The council voted, 8-2, to approve the low bid with the alternates included.
Only Boé and Bourgeois voted against the measure.