A major reconstruction of Ashland's downtown Plaza could cost $227,322 — but city officials believe they can bring down the cost by having city employees do part of the work.

A major reconstruction of Ashland's downtown Plaza could cost $227,322 — but city officials believe they can bring down the cost by having city employees do part of the work.

"We don't think it will cost as much as that," City Administrator Dave Kanner told Ashland City Councilors during a council study session on Monday night.

The cost estimate for carrying out the Plaza reconstruction includes a 20 percent contingency budget to take care of unexpected problems. But it doesn't include costs for additional design work to come up with a construction-ready plan, relocating utilities, city planning fees, new benches or bike racks.

The council has tasked the local firm Covey Pardee Landscape Architects with creating a concept plan to redesign the popular Plaza, which is suffering from wear-and-tear.

The firm gathered public input during four workshops, then brought a concept design to the City Council's Monday study session.

The plan calls for ripping up the uneven concrete surface of the plaza and replacing it with concrete or pavers. Some trees and landscaped areas would be surrounded by low concrete walls. The walls would protect the trees and vegetation and offer places for people to sit.

Lawn areas and worn benches where people currently like to lounge would be removed.

New benches could be added, either as stand-alone benches, or seating with backs built into the concrete walls.

Councilor Greg Lemhouse said he liked many aspects of the plan, including that the concrete walls increased the amount of seating space on the downtown Plaza.

"We're not going to come up with something that pleases everyone. But that being said, I like it," he said.

Councilor Mike Morris said the design will make the Plaza easier to maintain and reduce the trampling and compaction of the soil that now takes place in the lawn and landscaped areas.

However, Councilor Carol Voisin and Mayor John Stromberg objected to all the cement in the new plan, including the seating walls.

Councilor Russ Silbiger objected to the potential costs of the reconstruction.

Councilors will have to give final approval for the Plaza redesign at a future regular meeting before work can begin.

If councilors give the go-ahead, Kanner said the work could potentially be finished before Ashland's winter holiday season.

— Vickie Aldous