Watertown to pursue new, permanent dias for council chambers

The Watertown City Council approved the purchase of a new, permanent dias at which the council will sit during its bi-monthly meetings at city hall. 

Since 1996, the Watertown City Council and other organizations that hold public meetings in the same room — such as the Watertown-Mayer School Board — have been using a portable meeting desk. The desk can be taken down in order to create more space for other events in the room, but City Administrator Luke Fischer said it often takes city staff as much as an hour each time the room needs to be converted back and forth.

While the time and effort factor was part of the reason for the decision to pursue a permanent dias, which will be built by Watertown’s Kel’s Custom Cabinets at an estimated price of just under $12,000, the main reason for the decision was the deterioration of the equipment used by the Sherburne Wright Cable Commission to broadcast the meetings on public television. The equipment was apparently deteriorating more quickly because it was so frequently connected and disconnected.

While the new dias was supported by four of the five council members, councilor Steven Washburn voted against the measure, citing what he considered a perfectly functional desk already being in place.

“I think we’ve got a lot of other facility improvements (to consider),” Washburn said. “I think this dias is functional. It might not be ideal, it might not be perfect, but it’s $12,000. I think this is a functional unit for today.”

The new dias did pass by a 4-1 vote, though several councilors noted concern that Kel’s was the only business among the several that the city solicited bids from to actually provide one. Several council members expressed concern that there was no price comparison available, but rebidding the project would be equally problematic because Kel’s bid has now been made public.

In the end, the councilors who supported the project said they liked the idea of going with a local business, and felt comfortable with the price.

“Do we think we could get a dias for that much cheaper than $12,000?” councilor Michael Walters asked? “I think that’s probably a fair price.”

The $12,000 project will be paid for with fee returns the city has received from the Sherburne Wright Cable Commission. If not used for this project, that money would have gone into the general fund.

Contact Matt Bunke at [email protected]