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Library lecture hall construction contract, revised MOU on council agenda, also several agreement amendments


Newport Beach City Council has a light, but notable agenda tonight.

At tonight’s (Tuesday Nov. 14) study session and regular meeting, council will consider: An amendment to the memorandum of understanding with the NB Public Library Foundation, as well as increasing the funds committed and awarding a construction contract for the lecture hall project; an amendment to the agreement for the floating trash-collecting water wheel proposed for the Upper Newport Bay for new design and construction-related tasks; a Newport Boulevard and West Coast Highway landscaping contract, and an ad hoc committee for transit, transportation, parking and mobility.

There are only two items on the agenda during current business and both are related to the proposed library lecture hall project.

First up, council will consider the third amendment to the memorandum of understanding with the NB Public Library Foundation. The item also includes dissolving the city’s Library Lecture Hall Design Committee.

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Art courtesy of RCA/City of Newport Beach

The exterior of conceptual design for the planned library lecture hall

The city received three bids on October 12 and the lowest qualified bid was from AMG & Associates for a base bid of about $19.07 million. The updated total all-in project cost is projected at approximately $23.49 million. The current memorandum of understanding with the Newport Beach Public Library Foundation commits the city to a 50-50 split on funding the project.

The final plans call for a 9,814-square-foot building with 299 seats.

During the study session on November 14, council reviewed the project and discussed the recent construction bids. Councilmembers voted 4-3 on a motion to move forward with the lowest bid and direct the Library Foundation to reach out to the community to find pathways to incorporate the different elements of arts, business and culture as additional uses for the facility. In a straw vote, councilmembers Noah Blom, Robyn Grant, Brad Avery and Erik Weigand raised their hands in support.

Most of the discussion in November centered around the total estimated cost of the project, which has significantly increased from the approximate $8 million when it was first proposed in 2019.

While the 50-50 funding MOU with the Library Foundation is still in place, the Foundation already has $8.2 million in hard commitments available now: $7 million to be placed in the escrow account prior to the contract award and $1.2 million to be collected over the next three years.

They also identified that they already have another approximately $1 million in soft pledges that should be available after the contract award.

The Foundation has also committed to taking on further fundraising campaign efforts to raise the remaining contributions, up to 50% of the total project cost, or approximately $11.74 million.

The MOU had to be re-negotiated because of the new total cost estimate, but the city will have to commit to funding the other 50% following November’s direction from council.

At the November 28 meeting, council established an ad hoc committee comprised of councilmembers Noah Blom and Lauren Kleiman to negotiate the MOU between the city and the Foundation. The committee met with NBPLF representatives several times and revised the MOU, which is up for consideration by the council tonight.

According to the staff report, the significant changes to the agreement include:

Reflection of the new $23.5 million cost.

Revised sections to increase the city’s and the Foundation’s financial commitment to 50% or $11.7 million, along with language that NBPLF agrees to place $7.1 million into escrow within 10 business days of approval of the amendment. The remainder of NBPLF’s financial commitment is due within two years or upon completion of the lecture hall building. In the event of delay in payment of the remainder, the Foundation provides additional assurances set forth in another section that the remainder will be repaid to the city.

Added provisions that control spending and limits cost overruns by defining which fixtures and equipment can be used, requiring any party requesting an optional change order to cover its cost, and only allows future project enhancements once the full NBPLF commitment of $11.7 million has been paid to the city.

Changes to the priority of use of the lecture hall, which now allocates 50 calendar days each year to NBPLF with the remainder of the programming scheduled by the city.

Added language to the MOU in order to facilitate the NBPLF’s fundraising, including an amendment to a section which provides additional naming opportunities for audience seats subject to compliance with council policy and another section which authorizes user fees based upon a fee study approved by the council for use of the lecture hall.

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If the MOU with the Foundation is approved, staff is recommending in a separate agenda item, that council consider increasing the funds committed and awarding a construction contract for the lecture hall project. Staff is recommending awarding the contract to AMG & Associates, Inc. for the total bid price of approximately $19.07 million.

If approved, the action will also: Increase appropriations by about $10.49 million to fully fund the project; establish a contingency of about $1.91 million (10% of total bid) to cover the cost of unforeseen work not included in the original contract; add an amendment to the agreement with Robert Coffee Architects + Associates to increase the fee amount by $445,000 for construction support services, for a total not-to-exceed contract amount of approximately $1.12 million; add an amendment to the agreement with Griffin Structures to increase the fee amount by $187,000 for construction management services, for a total not-to-exceed the contract amount of $867,000, and approve an agreement with Geocon West for construction special and geotechnical inspections and support service, for a not-to-exceed amount of $249,000.

If approved, the tentative schedule shows construction starting in spring and taking approximately 21 months to complete.

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Art courtesy of City of Newport Beach

An aerial view rendering of the Newport Bay Trash Interceptor, which is currently under construction

Earlier in the regular meeting, during the consent calendar (items considered routine and usually voted in one motion without discussion unless a councilmember pulls the item), council will consider an amendment to the agreement for the floating trash-collecting water wheel proposed for the Upper Newport Bay.

Tonight, staff is recommending approval of the fourth amendment to the agreement with Burns & McDonnell for the San Diego Creek trash interceptor project for new design and construction-related tasks and to provide additional funds for the project’s miscellaneous and incidental expenses.

Large volumes of trash and debris, sometimes exceeding 300 cubic yards during heavy storm seasons, flow into the bay from the creek every year.

It will be located in the creek (just east of the Jamboree Road bridge) along the northern bank. It will be visible from the road, but likely be colored in an effort to camouflage with the surrounding landscape.

Staff previously described the design as a traditional water wheel that will “rake” the trash out of the water, haul it up a conveyer built and dump it into a bin for disposal.

It’s modeled after Baltimore’s “Mr. Trash Wheel,” which has its own social media and a worldwide following. Although Newport’s system will operate a little differently: In Baltimore, a boat tows the container to a transit station, but a boat cannot enter San Diego Creek, so city engineers had to create a short, elevated rail system instead.

The water wheel will be a moored vessel that uses booms to direct floating trash to the structure where rotating rakes push the litter onto a conveyor belt that moves the garbage up and into a mounted bin. The creek will turn the water wheel, which in turn powers the conveyer belt (solar power will provide an electrical assist). Trash is emptied into a floating container and transferred to shore via an elevated fixed rail system (instead of by boat like Baltimore’s trash wheel). A garbage truck will access the landside facility and remove the trash.

B&M began work on the project in 2020 as the city’s design consultant and is currently under contract to assist with the construction management. The council has since approved several other amendments to perform design tasks, review and process permitting requirements, prepare detailed designs for the unique system, and provide engineering and other support.

On July 11, 2023, the city awarded the construction contract to Jilk Heavy Construction. Officials broke ground on September 15 to kick off construction of the project.

According to the staff report for next week’s agenda item, there are several new design and construction-related tasks requiring immediate support from the B&M team that were not anticipated in the contract or previous amendments. Specifically, these new tasks are: Preparing an automatic irrigation system and planting plan; relocating the bio-infiltration unit; adding a stop (safety) mechanism at the end of the rail system; providing additional review services of design and product submittals; providing additional biological monitoring and coordinating with permitting agencies.

Earlier in the meeting, during matters which councilmembers have asked to be placed on a future agenda, Mayor Will O’Neill is asking his fellow councilmembers consider a future discussion item regarding forming a City Council ad hoc committee comprised of three councilmembers, to be appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the entire council. The committee would work with city staff and make a recommendation to the entire council regarding the selection, implementation and integration of new technology to assist the city’s public safety department’s protection of the public and deliver effective and efficient services to the community.

Also on the consent calendar, council will consider: An ordinance amending sections of city code related to the bayward location of piers and floats and noncommercial piers on Balboa Island; establishing an ad hoc committee for transit, transportation, parking and mobility; awarding a $1.03 million contract to Marina Landscape Inc. for landscape improvements on Newport Boulevard (Industrial Way to Pacific Coast Highway) and West Coast Highway (west city limits to Highland Street) and will review the 2024 objectives for the Harbor Commission.

The council agenda is available online here. The closed session starts at 4 p.m., followed regular meeting at 4:30 p.m.

The meeting can be watched live on the local NBTV channel (Spectrum 3 or Cox 852) or on the city’s website here.

Members of the public may speak in person in council chambers (there is not a remote or online option to participate).

Questions and comments can be submitted in writing for City Council consideration by sending them to the city clerk at To give the council adequate time to review comments, written comments were submitted by 5 p.m. on January 8 (the day before the City Council meeting). Correspondence received by this deadline were uploaded to the agenda packet by January 8 at 5:30 p.m. and can be viewed here.

Material received after the deadline and prior to 2 p.m. today (the day of the meeting) will be provided to the council in hard copy and will be available to the public at the meeting.


Sara Hall covers City Hall and is a regular contributor to Stu News Newport.

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