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Ground Broken on New City Offices

A new complex to house city employees will start taking shape soon on Machin Avenue in Novato's Old Town.

After 40 years of debate and discussion, cheerleading and the pooh-poohing, it's really going to happen. A new complex to house city employees will start taking shape soon on Machin Avenue.

Civic leaders got together Tuesday afternoon, just before a Novato City Council meeting, to say a few words about what it took to get to that point. The parking lot between the Novato Community House and the businesses along Grant Avenue will be turned into a corporation yard and construction workers will start by excavating the underground parking garage for the 19,000-square-foot building.

Members of the Novato City Council — Mayor Denise Athas, Madeline Kellner, Pat Eklund, Jeanne MacLeamy and Eric Lucan — each said a few words to mark the occasion along with City Manager Michael Frank. Then the golden shovels were pulled out for the traditional photo op.

For a full story about Tuesday's event, check this story from the . For a story about the chronology of the planned construction work and a reminder about downtown parking challenges while the project is going on, .

Now that it's officially under way, what are your thoughts? Are naysayers coming around ... Can they work to embrace the new building? Are longtime supporters of a civic center in Old Town getting emotional about all this? Share your thoughts with a comment below.

Cindy July 18, 2012 at 02:22 PM
Hey "Sip the suds", Why would we want to show up to a ground breaking when we do not support the project? It's all a bunch of political hoo ha for a project that we cannot afford, and the other reason is because people work, you know those people who pay the taxes, can't make a "ground breaking". I am sorry but I don't see this as a wonderful event for Novato!
Mark Schoenbaum July 18, 2012 at 03:40 PM
j l grimes = bud light = my way or the highway = sip the suds = hamilton square = troll
Gail Wilhelm July 18, 2012 at 05:09 PM
Very nice event. New offices for city equals progress. Next, lets tackle the Community House and bring it back to life. The community deserves it. And the downtown businesses would benefit from the night time activity downtown.
Tina McMillan July 18, 2012 at 05:24 PM
Brent You are a kind man. If I were to open this piece I would say that after 40 years of rigorous debate the city council did an end run around measure D and rather than offering the community a choice of what to build and where, used money generated by the Redevelopment Agency to pay for city offices without additional parking in the downtown area, without restoration of the community house and without the support of many residents as well as businesses in Old Town. The debate came to an end when the council charged the RDA 10% interest on a long term loan thereby accumulating $17 million dollars. The council and the RDA decided to repay the loan by floating tax free bonds thereby limiting the use of the repayment to stringent terms. The terms are: the money cannot be used to buy a building that could both house city workers and be leased commercially and the money must be spent in three years or returned. The tragedy is the fact that the city's structural budget deficit makes this one time infusion of funds possibly the last we will see for many years. Coming up with the money to repair the community house or to provide parking for old town merchants will take a back seat to infill development, smart stations, and projects focused on SB375. Though we no longer have an RDA to turn to for funding, if you look at legislation in the process of gaining approval what you see is money going to fund construction based on the One Bay Area plan.
Mark Burnham July 18, 2012 at 07:54 PM
oh yes. a wonderful event. an event in the shadow of a 4,100 sf building that is utilized one night per week and cost more than $6 million to simply renovate. a buiding that the city said would "revitalize" downtown novato. a building that is empty 7 days per week and 6 nights per week. now here comes the 20,000 sq ft. city offices that the city states will "revitalize" downtown as it will sits empty every night and 3 days per week. a 20,000 sq ft. building that will cost upwards of $15 million and contributes zero in much needed tax revenues. while circle bank builds their 20,000 sf building for $3.9 million and contributes greatly to much needed tax revenues. these two projects the city, and former council members like gail wilhelm, have touted as "revitalizing" downtown novato. we have definitive proof that one hasn't done a thing to revitalize downtown and the city office will be no different. tax payers now are expected to foot the bill in excess of $20 million dollars for these projects and do not get a penny in tax revenues from them. government planning and waste at its finest! this is what "progress" looks like to the few that backed these projects. congratulations to the vocal minority they know how to play "the game" better than the hard working tax paying citizens of novato who are too tied up with their every day lives to change the wasteful ways of our nation's governments.
henry July 18, 2012 at 08:13 PM
I read a comment from Ms. Wilhelm above that stated "downtown businesses" would benefit from night time activity downtown if the community house were reopened. No doubt that is true. Downtown businesses would benefit from anything that draws people downtown. However, the population of Novato and our tax coffers would be the real beneficiaries of increased interest in downtown merchants and future businesses that might consider Grant Ave as their new home. The tax payers of Novato want "things to do" and "places to go". The shuttered community center would qualify as one but it is obvious to this citizen, that city offices and the Sherman Avenue building do almost nothing to benefit downtown merchants and generate a miniscule amount in terms of tax revs for the city of Novato. I know downtown is looking forward to seeing Novato city workers back downtown. I also know they, and many others, are very concerned about the serious parking issues that stare everyone in the face once these offices are built, 999 Grant opens, and the theatre re opens.
Tina McMillan July 18, 2012 at 08:24 PM
Gail: Where do you propose to get the money? Are you aware of the following: "The county of Marin has reached an accord with Novato on management of hundreds of affordable housing units formerly overseen by its shuttered redevelopment agency — but only if the state gives the pact its blessing. Under the agreement approved by county Housing Authority commissioners Tuesday, the county authority will take over in return for fees that now bring in about $350,000 a year, but will be able to bail out if costs exceed 95 percent of revenue. The county will not accept liability for a $25 million loan on the city books." Is the $25 million dollar loan to the RDA where the money came from to build the downtown offices? If Novato accepts the loan it will have to repay the interest. The cost of the offices goes from $15 to $17 million to over $40 million when you include interest payments. Measure D says the city should put to a vote any loan of this magnitude. Perhaps the end run did not work.... "Officials said the county authority — which has issued layoff notices to nine workers including the deputy director, eliminated two other posts and imposed up to 25 furlough days on 50 remaining staffers in light of federal funding cutbacks — cannot take on more work without compensation." http://www.marinij.com/novato/ci_20840624/county-reaches-pact-novato-affordable-housing-units?source=pkg
Roger July 19, 2012 at 12:22 AM
This office is a done deal. Let's move on. Perhaps now the Council can focus on a real top need ... growing our tax revenue by attracting high-paying bio-tech firms to Novato. It was sad when BioMarin HQ moved out to San Rafael. The north side of town is zoned for business, so let's draw firms there, instead of letting developers push dense affordable housing there because of a SMART station.
T. Allen July 19, 2012 at 04:33 AM
Mixed use would be best as that way the companies will actually want to come here because they know employees will have options to live in. (One of the main reasons businesses don't move to Marin is lack of workforce housing/high home costs. The other reason is lack of transit.)
TR. Bales July 19, 2012 at 05:35 AM
What were the kick backs that Michael Frank received from the East Bay Company that are hired to build the city offices? Another company who has Novato roots was $150,000 less in the bid, but Frank and the 5 stooges wasted our money and got some no name company out of Novato, and out of Marin. Something smells dirty---including the pollution this East Bay Company will be doing driving back and forth on the 101. Frank needs to go, along with the crazy spending council.
TR. Bales July 19, 2012 at 05:37 AM
Keep your wallet open Novato, if Frank and the crazy council continue it will be a 90% tax rate in Novato. Can you afford to live here with this spend, spend, spend, mentality?
TR. Bales July 19, 2012 at 05:39 AM
The city of Santa Rosa is in "hog heaven" because they got rid of Frank and 'stupid' Novato hired the loser and got him off of their backs.
Gail Wilhelm July 19, 2012 at 08:51 AM
TR I respect that you are unhappy about the city offices contract and it is your right to complain. But TR if you have NO EVIDENCE of kickbacks/corruption regarding the letting of the contract for the city office building then your comments are slander. Your wild suspicions and repeating the suspicionas of others are not evidence. I suggest you confine your comments to things you know with certainly that are true.
Dave Robertson July 24, 2012 at 05:19 AM
Yes, it is TR's right to complain. But, it seems as if his complaint has lots of merit. For the City of Novato to build office space in this economy is irresponsible and a very real danger to the financial stability of the city. HP or Apple Computer - yes. The City of Novato -crazy! It is a fact that the city is using borrowed money to construct this building. It is a fact that the City couldn't find enough change in a crisis to buy a cup of coffee. If I spent money like that in proportion to my income, I would be nuts. No one would have lent me that kind of money in the first place. What ... Novato is going to sell Stafford Lake to raise cash if things get into a crunch. Clearly our City Council is full of financial amateurs!
Gail Wilhelm July 24, 2012 at 07:27 AM
TR's wild accusations and fact free commentary on this thread suggests that he has no real substance underpinning his verbal venting. Bloviate away TR. Oh, and by the way Dave Robertson, the City of Novato does not own Lake Stafford. You guys need to elevate your game for anyone to take you seriously.
Tina McMillan July 24, 2012 at 08:22 AM
Gail Earlier in the thread I asked you where you propose to get the money to rehab the Community House. I linked to an article that explained the loss of money at the county level and the fact that the county was not willing to cover the loan to fund the bond measure that I believe is being used to build the downtown offices. If the tax increment is not sufficient to cover those costs then it will be the responsibility of the general fund. When you look at it in those terms a $17 million dollar project becomes a $40 million dollar project. Tom's Op ED points out that the Measure F increase in sales tax is now being used to fund salary increases rather than to stabilize our budget deficit. As I recall the Measure F oversight committee wrote a letter to the council asking them to reconsider the money allotted to build the downtown offices because they did not feel it was a prudent use of one time funds given our structural deficit. Once again, how do you propose to pay for the rehabilitation of the Community House when we don't have the money to pay for out ongoing debts? As for the downtown businesses needed more activity wouldn't it have made more sense to go with the original suggestion by Diet Stroeh and Chuck Bennett to use the property on which the civic center is being built, in trade for an office building so that a private developer could put in retail and parking on that site?
Mark Burnham July 24, 2012 at 02:03 PM
tina, its useless. asking gail wilhelm to answer an intelligent question just leaves you shaking your head. you either get silence or some angry personal attack. either no substance or the "wilhelm scream"! here is a compliation of her shrieks! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cdbYsoEasio
Gail Wilhelm July 24, 2012 at 08:03 PM
Tina, I don't have a plan in mind yet, merely a goal. When I do you will no doubt hear about it. Unlike many who oppose any effort to improve the community, I believe in a democratic society where people work together to solve problems. The perpetual naysayeers ever accomplish anything.
Gail Wilhelm July 24, 2012 at 08:05 PM
typo correction: The perpetual naysayers NEVER accomplish anything.

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