WRNS Studio / Town of AthertonA front view of the proposed Atherton Town Center, built in the “Santa Barbara” style preferred by the City Council. The police department is to the left, and the administration offices to the right.
The results have yet to be certified, and a few late ballots may still need to be counted, but as of Wednesday afternoon, Measure A was approved by Atherton voters, 1,103 to 701. Measure A asked voters if they would approve use of town funds to complete financing to build a new town center.
It is a non-binding vote, but the city council wanted to measure residents’ views on the matter.
According to San Mateo County, there are 4,904 registered voters in the town, and 1,808 of them cast ballots in the mail-in election, or brought them to the town administration office by 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Two election workers staffed a ballot box outside the administration building after the town offices closed at 5 p.m., and reported getting “one, or maybe two ballots” while there.
“I’m happy it passed, and feel good about the margin,” Atherton Mayor Michael Lempres said on Wednesday, before a city council study session. “What it means is that we can continue moving ahead on the town center project. … It’s been a 20-year effort. Now we have a clear path to getting it done. The money is there, the support is there.”
Lempres said that it’s important that the city council “acknowledge the importance of continuing to watch our dollars, making sure that the concerns of the people who voted yes and the people who voted no are respected. We have to make sure it is the right scale, make sure that we’re not exposing the town by borrowing money.
“I feel good about what we’ve done, as we move forward.”
In 2012, the town voted to build a new town center to replace the decrepit old buildings, and pay for it with donations, not town funds.
But only about $6.5 million to $7 million has come in from donations, leaving a shortage of about $10 million needed to build a town administration building, police station and civic courtyard.
The city council and town staff worked out a budget that would use unallocated funds — currently, $12.5 million is available — to finish paying for the new town center.
Atherton Library is also to be rebuilt as part of the project, but has its own funds — an estimated $12 million to $15 million — to pay for its new building.
The town has used about $3 million of the donated funds to develop plans for the town center, and has recently undertaken site studies to confirm such things as utility easements.
City Manager George Rodericks on Wednesday said the town will likely go out to bid on the project in November or December, then review the bids and award a contract in March or April, and start work as soon as April or May of 2018.
Library services are likely to be dolled out to other libraries in the San Mateo County system, and portable buildings are to be used to house the town’s administration and planning and permits departments. The police station will continue operating in its old facilities until the new police department is built.