TURLOCK — It's not often a contractor gets an enthusiastic round of applause at a City Council meeting.
But when you're the contractor rebuilding the Car-negie Arts Center, you're a popular person in Turlock.
After one attempt to remodel the center, a devastating fire, two rounds of bidding and lengthy negotiations with a nonprofit group to run the place, the Turlock City Council on Tuesday night voted unanimously for a contract to rebuild the historic arts center.
The second round of bidding — the first bids were rejected after some participants threatened to sue — started with good news.
"Bids were fantastically less than before," Development Services Director Mike Pitcock said. "That's quite amazing. I've never seen bids go down in rebid."
In November 2005, midway through a renovation, the building burned after two burglars set a fire to cover their tracks.
Originally one of 2,000 libraries built by industrialist Andrew Carnegie, the center played host to art classes, exhibitions, poetry readings, storytelling, concerts and plays in recent years.
Although the city owns the building, it will be operated by a nonprofit arts group that also will pay for furnishings and maintenance.
The city originally projected costs to come in at a little more than $7 million and set aside redevelopment money to pay for a big chunk of it.
On Tuesday, the council authorized spending $6,690,720 for a contract with EMJ Corp. of Sacramento and associated costs.
"There was a lot of controversy over the first bid," Councilwoman Amy Bublak said. "It's important that people realize we are watching every dollar."
Councilman Kurt Spycher agreed.
"This project has been in the works since I've been on the council," he said. "I want to tell everyone involved with this, great job."