Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2008

Architect unveils new plans for council chamber

Takoma Park wants to allow performing arts

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A firm selected to renovate the Takoma Park City Council chambers unveiled a new design Monday that would add seats, expand the stage, improve acoustics and include projection screens to create a dual meeting and performing arts space.

The latest design, referred to as Option D, combines elements of the three plans previously proposed by MTFA Architecture Inc., the Arlington, Va.-based company the city has selected for the project.

Option D would add seating, enlarge potential performance space on the stage, improve the room’s acoustics and install projection screens on either side of the stage so council members would not have to sit in the audience for presentations.

Including general contractors’ overhead and a design contingency, the associated costs of the plan would be $1,241,969. The council has asked that the project not exceed $1.2 million, the amount of potential grant funding available.

Some of those available grant funds are currently designated for construction of a city gymnasium, and Mayor Bruce Williams said the council would have to discuss potentially reallocating those funds toward the council chamber renovation at a work session scheduled for Jan. 14.

In terms of the design, which hopes to accommodate community musical and theater performances in addition to the needs of the council, Williams said it features most of the positive aspects of the previous three plans. It includes upgrades to the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, the audio-visual system and will meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

‘‘This seems like a good hybrid at the moment,” Williams said.

Deputy city managerhonored

The Takoma Park City Council passed a resolution Monday recognizing the service of T. Wayne Hobbs, the deputy city manager who is retiring after more than 17 years on city staff.

Since 1990, Hobbs has served as the city’s personnel manager, assistant city manager and, beginning in 2002, deputy city manager.

‘‘Wayne is sort of a giant of quiet competence,” said Councilman Doug Barry (Ward 6). ‘‘And I think often it’s the people who draw the least attention to themselves who perform the highest quality of work.”

According to the resolution, Hobbs increased funding for city employee training, established the city’s human resources office, served as chairman of the police employees retire plan committee, the co-chair of the emergency preparedness committee and the city’s lead representative in numerous contract negotiations with local unions.

‘‘I have a profound appreciation of the length of time he served the city,” former Mayor Kathy Porter said. ‘‘Even though Wayne is probably not the most high profile city staff person ... he has been one of the most important and one of the most critical.”

In addition to the resolution, Hobbs, who previously served in the U.S. Army, was presented with a citation from Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), a flag that was flown over the U.S. Capitol and letters from U.S. Rep. Christopher Van Hollen Jr. (D-Dist. 8) of Kensington and President George W. Bush.

‘‘It’s a good thing I don’t wear a hat,” Hobbs said when thanking the council. ‘‘Because I’m not sure I could get it on after all the things that were said here tonight.”