Loose Lips

Woodwork for Mendelson’s Office Could Cost More Than $110,000

photo (23)

Mendelson's office, sans Mendelson

The D.C. Council hired a construction firm this summer to rehabilitate the woodwork in Chairman Phil Mendelson's Wilson Building office and conference room. The Council's version of This Old House could end up costing more than $110,000, according to documents obtained by LL through a Freedom of Information Act request.

"Don't you think, in an office like this, the wood should be right?" Mendelson asks LL.

In late July, the Council hired the lowest bidder on the woodwork, D.C.-based AVSmoot LLC. The contract was originally worth $80,300. After a citrus smell from a cleaner being used on the wood irritated Mendelson's staff, the Council opted for a more labor-intensive method that was more gentle to the wood, adding another $25,000 to the project's cost. An additional $6,800 has been set aside for extra labor to speed up the rehab, bringing the total possible cost in three purchase orders to $112,100.

The full cost of the work won't be known until AVSmoot submits its invoices. Funds for the wood repairs came out of the Council's capital budget as part of summer renovation work, which is why similar rooms in Mayor Vince Gray's and City Administrator Allen Lew's Wilson Building suites didn't receive their own renovations.

Mendelson defends the six-digit work on his office, which dates back to the era when D.C. was governed by a panel of three commissioners, as an effort to preserve the the wood as a historic feature of the Wilson Building. Before this summer's preservation work, some of the panels were warped while others were losing their frames, according to Mendelson. "I wish I had 'before' pictures," he says.

The chairman walked LL through his newly refurbished space Friday, describing the wood as "handsome" and "subtle." He even recommended vantage points where LL could take the best pictures to show the quality of the wood, although he refused to be photographed with it himself.

To prove his point, Mendelson compared his office's refinished paneling with some untreated wood in the hallway. "It's just not as distinguished," the chairman says.

Then Mendelson took LL on a trip down the hall to Gray's conference room, one of the other former commissioners' offices. The wood in Gray's conference room hasn't had similar restoration done. LL has to admit the chairman has the mayor beat, at least when it comes to wood—although actually seeing the difference between the two rooms required Mendelson to pull back furniture against the walls.

After that, it was back to Mendelson's office, where he checked again to make sure LL didn't take his picture with the wood.

Photo by Will Sommer

  • Ward4forever

    What? Wasn't the District Building fully renovated in 2001?

    I like Phil. But this article shows that his days could be numbered.

    Once an elected leader starts to enjoy the trappings of his office, he values his position more than his duty to serve. The trappings of office: wood paneling, grovelling lobbyists, SUVs, free tickets, etc.

    Ultimately, the voters get sick of such politicians and they fire them.

  • Bob

    Talk about being petty and naive.

    Actual millions and billions are misapproprated or funneled to crony businesses across the country on a daily basis, and you guys get your panties in a wad over this? Seems reasonable for renovation work. I guess you rent and never had to hire a contractor to update a kitchen or bathroom in your home. Shit's expensive.

    Obviously his political opponents wanted you to make hay out of this pile of weeds. And you did. Because you are just as trivial and petty and trifling as the teabaggers.

  • Angelina

    Hey Bob, we didn't hear a peep from you when....!

  • Bob

    @ward4forever, it is silly to "fire" the politician for. playing the game while ignoring all the other players and doing nothing to change the rules of the game.

    There are true examples of fraud, waste and abuse. This ain't any of those. This is money being spent to restore woodwork in an office in a public building. He isn't having a pool built in his backyard, or putting a home theater in his basement on the taxpayer's dime. He is spending money that will need to be spent. Perhaps you'd be more comfortable with a politician you look favorably upon doing such renovations, but it will get done, now for less or later for more.

    You people are all alike. Tea bagger, liberal, libertarian or whatever, you all latch onto the trivial because the real problems are overwhelming and I guess seem insurmountable. So you attack and defile politicians over the pettiest shit.

  • Pingback: Change is gonna come

  • Ward One Resident

    I think Bob might be new here...his rants sure do read an awful lot like someone who doesn't live in D.C.

  • DC

    Well, you know how white people are about their interior decorating. Always gotta be wood paneling and leather bound books and shit. Maybe if they'd invest less in floor globes and brass fireplace screens we could start to take them seriously. But no, rather than take some responsibility for their rococo extravagances, they just play the reverse racism card. Sorry Tad, if you're going to go around in those baggy pleated pants, don't ask for a redecorating expense account.

  • Pingback: Mendelson's woodwork to cost $112,000, City Paper reports | WJLA.com

  • Typical DC BS

    @Bob: Those of us who actually handle construction jobs run into idiotic government "requirements" all the time. The staff whining about the "citrus smell" sound like typical government worker scheming to try to get out of having to work. It happens on ANY big job around government workers. Then agreeing to spend $25,000 for a different cleaning method sounds equally stupid, not to mention $6,800 in "change orders".

    As usual, a lack of common sense and fiscal responsibility is evident, but that's no surprise when a twerp like Mendelson has staff who authorize a 40% cost overrun because they can't tell people to deal with a citrusy smell for a few days.

  • name

    I don't see how that finish needs to be repaired. I don't see any major water damage or mold.

    Patina is actually an asset and makes it more valuable.

  • RealDC

    SMH- Wasteful.
    Just get a rag and some pledge and dust the wood. Better for the real important meetings, have janitorial crew use some Old English polish, now you are shining.

    $110,000 on this bullshit...... all incumbents need to get voted out! For Real!

  • PattyDuke

    What's interesting is that this was not in Debonis links on the Washington Post website. It would have been a story if it was Mayor Gray's office......always and always will be a double standard.

  • Will Sommer

    @Name That's the office after the repairs.

  • National Trust

    Do you ever write about anything substantive? Do you ever dig in and try to illuminate anything more complex than a tabloid rumor. Do you always allow yourself to be used as a tool by a miscreant with a beef against a former employer?

    Did it even occur to you to describe how ornate the woodwork is in the Chairman's office or how vast? Thank God they didn't have some yokel criticizing the restoration of The Amber Room at the behest of an urban hillbilly puppet master with a grudge.

    I'm sure you could have been led to cover the story either way since embarrassing Phil was the point. "Mendelson Lets Priceless City Treasure Crumble Through Neglect" would teach Phil about less than stellar campaign manager recommendations.

    Depending how far Gray's publicity stunt eats up the budget surplus we may need to sell that paneling a la Detroit. Was it really worth it to run through the surplus to keep all DC Guvment jobs going when the employees would have been paid by the feds anyhow? Now that might be a story but it might require research and math.

    Time was when LL meant something but is surely running on fumes now.

  • NE John

    Oh lighten up. $110k is not that much.

  • Mike Madden

    @ National Trust:

    How, exactly, would all D.C. employees have been paid by the feds? They get paid by the District, not by the feds.

  • ccdcmv

    Hey $110,000, thats more than the cost of 2 Kwame Brown "fully loaded" Navigators!!


    For the production that comes out of the Wilson Building all those MOFO's could work in the park. I agree that all of them value themselves too highly

  • Lester

    This is a WASTE of my tax dollars and I agree, if this was Kwame, a huge stink would have been raised.

    The real story that LL needs to do is how much taxpayer funds does the Mendelson office spend a year? Millions I bet and they say he writes his own legislation! Why does the Chairman have like 25 staff members?

    @Bob = Bob summersgill, who would criticise any other Councilmember but lets his beloved off the hook.

  • drez

    $110,000 to refinish existing panelling?
    Seems pretty expensive to me.

  • Typical DC BS

    @drez: I wonder if the whole room is wood paneled like that picture? If so, that's a pretty big job. Without the details, it's hard to judge. But keep in mind, the initial bid was only $80,000. For it to jump to $110,000 for the reasons stated, that's pretty ridiculous.

  • http://citypaper sly

    N.E.JOHN, is it safe to say that you do not have 110,000.

  • http://aoidc.org Bill Brown for the AOI of DC

    The Association of the Oldest Inhabitants of DC (the city's oldest civic organization) applauds Council Chair Mendelson for approving steps to preserve the interior of the John A. Wilson Building. Even though the building was restored a number of years back, that doesn't mean that every detail of its historic, ornate interior was refurbished. One of the big problems with many government-driven rehab projects (schools, DC War Memorial, Wilson Bldg., etc.) is money is seldom programmed for maintenance. Has anyone tried to enjoy a ride on "The Georgetown", the historic reproduction canal boat on the C&O Canal recent? Hope not... it hasn't been in service since July 2011 and is scheduled for demolition because the Park Service never bothered to maintain it.
    An ounce of prevention...
    You may recall that the AOI was behind the push to return Gov. Shepherd's statue to the Wilson Building, have it installed, lighted and... appropriately... rehabilitated.
    So, our hats are off to Council Chair Mendelson, the Council and the city's Department of General Services for taking steps to ensure that the city's investment in its facilities are protected.

    Bill Brown, President
    AOI of DC

  • NE John

    No guys, $110,000 is not like the Brown navigator. This is renovation of an existing government structure, which will last for many years. And many years ago I did work in construction. These kinds of things are labor intensive, i.e., comprise some really hard work.