By Joe Bachman
City leaders in May approved to move forward on office furniture replacement for the first and second floor lobbies of city hall, including Mayor Zach Vruwink’s office and lobby.
Over $13,000 was approved for furniture replacement on the first and second floor lobbies of city hall. The mayor’s lobby was approved for approximately $6,600 in upgrades which will feature two tables, six chairs, and a television stand.
The mayor’s office has been approved for nearly $10,000 in upgrades in furniture, including a $5,154 desk and credenza as well as the office of Executive Coordinator Jennifer Clark, which was approved for approximately $8,500 in upgrades including a $6,800 work space.
According to Clark, these requests are in alignment for every other department since the city hall renovation in 2011, which did not address furniture.
“The replacement is financed from the replacement accounts that were established years ago for this and other capital replacements at city hall.”
The need for furniture replacement, according to Clark, does not stem from the desire to replace the current furniture, but an issue of ergonomics.
“A primary reason the city has replaced furniture isn’t out of desire for new furniture but that of necessity relating to lack of modern ergonomics and functional obsolescence.”
According to city documents, records show that the Planning & Economic Development and Engineering Department received $8,852 in office furniture replacement in 2011, the Police Department received over $25,000 in furniture replacement from 2012-2014, approximately $14,000 in furniture replacement for the Engineering Department in 2015, and over $16,000 in furniture replacement for the Finance Department in 2016.
Wisconsin Rapids City Hall has not seen any upgrades to furniture to any lobbies on all floors since it was built in 1978, and still retains the original lobby and some office furniture.
According to Mayor Zach Vruwink, the costs and timing for furniture replacement are quite normal.
“Everything has a life cycle — the city has set up these replacement accounts to appropriately replace furniture when the time came to do so,” said Vruwink. “I do find it appropriate, and it’s not out of the ordinary for any governmental entity; whether it’s schools or local government to replace furniture or any other capital items.”
One of the more controversial subjects on this matter is to call in question the proposed $5,154 desk and credenza for the mayor’s office.
“We want it to last a considerable amount of time — and we want to make a long term, smart investment,” said Vruwink. “Commercial office furniture is not inexpensive, and there are certain grades of furniture from a retail store that is a much different grade and quality from the company that bid on the furniture. It’s important for people to draw the distinction.”
The winning and lowest bid from multiple local furniture companies came from Wausau based furniture company “Environments” who specialize in commercial office furniture and design. The city secured government discounted pricing from this company, as the costs for commercial office furniture can be reported to be much higher than figures quoted.
“It’s not for me, it’s for the next number of mayors that are going to be representing the city and serving the residents,” said Vruwink. “Not only are we purchasing something that was high quality and will last many years, but we’re also getting a very good price on it.”
Vruwink noted that in 2010, the council chambers were updated by then mayor Mary Jo Carson, which saw a $25,000 bill. According to Vruwink,the renovation of the council chambers, much like upgrades to city hall lobbies, including the mayor’s office and lobby is for use for generations to come.
The May 17 common council meeting will see the final discussion on the matter, and the public is encouraged to attend the meeting, held inside the council chambers at 6:00 p.m.