OAKLEY -- A fountain planned for the entrance to Oakley Plaza became another kind of focal point Tuesday as the City Council weighed the feature's merits against its six-figure price tag.
Oakley council members ultimately decided to adopt a Tracy contractor's $1.1 million bid to create a landscaped plaza featuring shallow stairs, sidewalks, a trellis, trees -- and a $421,000 fountain.
Councilman Doug Hardcastle cast the lone dissenting vote, saying he wanted the bid reduced by $500,000.
But his colleagues agreed that the project would be finished faster if they approved the bid so the company could get started and then returned to the negotiating table to discuss other, less expensive types of fountains.
Goodland Landscape Construction has indicated it's willing to do that, city engineer Jason Vogan told the council, adding that it's common practice to award a bid and then execute a change order to reduce the cost of the contract.
And if the company decides not to cooperate after all, the city won't issue the official notice that the contractor must have to proceed and will rebid the project, Mayor Kevin Romick said after the meeting.
The fountain that's currently planned for the plaza -- by far the most costly item on the list of individual jobs and elements the project entails -- would cover about 300 square feet and has 40 jets, three dozen of which are computer-controlled and collectively can produce a variety of geometric patterns. Four others can produce vertical plumes of water up to 35 feet tall.
The fountain also comes with underwater lighting and an underground reservoir because the water must be recirculated, all features that add to the design's complexity and cost, City Manager Bryan Montgomery said.
Although she's long been enthusiastic about the idea of a fountain, Councilwoman Carol Rios said she and the rest of the council didn't know how much something like this would cost until they bid the project.
Council members originally expected that overhauling the plaza would cost about $700,000.
The $421,000 is excessive, Rios said, adding that she'd be willing to consider another way of marking the entryway.
Montgomery suggested that the city could cut back on the number of jets to save money.
Once the city gives the contractor an official notice to proceed, the company must start work within 10 days and, barring unavoidable delays, complete the job 75 days after that. Failure to meet the deadline will result in a penalty of $1,000 per day.
Funds for the project will come in part from what's left of the revenue that was generated when the city's former redevelopment agency sold bonds to buy the shopping center. The money will be coupled with proceeds from the pending sale of the back portion of the center.
Meanwhile, the half-dozen merchants in a strip mall along the back of the plaza have received compensation from the city after complaining about the loss of business they say construction in and around the plaza has cost them.
The city waived their March rent as it also did for La Costa Restaurant and Dirty Pirate, an amount totaling $8,727.
Tenants also had the fees they pay toward the cost of maintaining the common areas waived from September through March, a sum amounting to $17,500.
Contact Rowena Coetsee at 925-779-7141. Follow her at Twitter.com/rowenacoetsee.