Mendelsons office, sans Mendelsons 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