KENNETH CITY — It seemed as if a new day had dawned for council members when they civilly debated the details of a search for Kenneth City's first town manager.
But the newfound decorum didn't last long.
By the last item on the workshop agenda, the squabbling and snide comments had resurfaced. At issue: The cost of some items slated for the renovation of the Police Department — a $2,899 refrigerator, a $469 microwave, two wall-mounted plasma TVs, a Dyson hand dryer ranging in price from $1,200 to $2,000, and high-end Kohler plumbing fixtures.
The Kohler fixtures include a $247 "Yin Yang Wading Pool" drop-in sink; a Purist faucet ranging in price from $408 to $635, and a Purist soap/lotion dispenser ranging in price from $89 to $122. The cost of the faucet varies with size and whether the handle is a "smile design" or a "straight lever." The cost of the soap dispenser depends on whether it is wall- or countertop-mounted.
"This is crazy," Kenneth City resident Maureen Boberg said. "C'mon, guys, this is our money."
But council members Phil Redisch, who oversees the public works and is in charge of the renovation, and Joanne DeSimone, who oversees the Police Department, said high-end, designer products will not be installed.
"We're not going to do that," DeSimone said. "Never in a million years."
But Mayor Teresa Zemaitis said that, if those specific items are in the plans when they are sent out for bid, that's exactly what the town will get.
Redisch offered to withdraw the plans and bring them back to the council's next workshop with "realistic" versions substituted for the bigger ticket components.
And DeSimone promised she would go shopping to find lesser-cost appliances. DeSimone said she's dedicated to buying things at the lowest price available.
"I could shop for a living," she said. "I love to shop."
But, resident Ellen Dalbo said, DeSimone needs to remember whose money she's spending.
"This is our money; the residents' money. I don't want it spent on a Taj Mahal Police Department. They should be out on the road," Dalbo said. "It's my money you're shopping with. I don't like it when you shop with my money."
Renovation of the Police Department, which occupies the eastern 5,000 square feet of the Community Hall, 4600 58th St. N, has been in the works for a while. The town hired Spring Engineering from Holiday to develop plans a couple of years ago. But, when the plans were returned, officials found they'd spent about $4,800 on incomplete plans. They agreed to spend an additional $4,800 to have Spring add in the necessary plans for the electrical, plumbing and other systems.
It's those plans that will go out for bid if the council approves them. It is unclear who authorized the specific appliances and decorative touches that were included in the plans. Redisch and DeSimone said they had not seen them because they had concentrated on the overall gutting of the space. Spring Engineering's president could not be reached for comment.
The council is also split about the timing and scope of the project.
Zemaitis said she does not believe the department needs to be gutted and walls torn down to fix the problems. The estimated cost for that is $150,000 to $200,000. It would be more cost effective, she said, to repaint, replace ceiling tiles and flooring.
"It would look nice and new and spiffy without spending $200,000," Zemaitis said. "The building is not open to the public."
She urged that the council at least wait until March when the town manager is on board before making any decisions. But Redisch and DeSimone were against that.
"He has a lot to do to get the city in order," Redisch said. "This is not part of that project."
And DeSimone said the manager is not an engineer and so will not be able to critique the project.
"That's absolutely, to me, ridiculous that we have to wait for a town manger," she said.
DeSimone said the objections to the renovation are from a splinter group of residents.
"There is a fragmented group that does not want a Police Department," DeSimone said.
Anne Lindberg can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8450.