Turlock Public Safety Facility $1.5 Million Over Budget

David Fransen

Turlock’s under-construction Public Safety Facility is $1.5 million over budget, according to City Engineer Mike Pitcock.

The increase in costs, from an anticipated $28.2 million to $29.7 million today, comes in large part due to a four-plus month delay in construction due to the discovery of contaminated soils.

“When you delay a project, you tend to have people asking for more money,” Pitcock said.

According to Pitcock, once construction began developers found much of the soil contaminated by gasoline, likely from an old gas station fuel cell on site. Contractors were forced to dig 5 to 7 feet deep, excavate the contaminated soil, and backfill the dirt with clean soil before work could continue.

Main builders WLC Architects, Inc. requested $341,392 for construction management costs related to the delay. A further $281,892 in costs come from unexpected inspection, survey, and permit fees, many related to the contaminated soil.

Pitcock added that the $341,000 requested is a worst case scenario figure; the city will attempt to negotiate a lower fee with WLC Architects.

Other unexpected costs are attributed to $353,503 in anticipated “value engineering” cost savings which failed to materialize, and $526,471 in contract change orders, some related to the construction delay.

The cost overruns tally about 5.3 percent of the total project cost, a percentage which enthused Councilmember Steven Nascimento given the project’s magnitude.

“Pretty impressive,” Nascimento said. “I was expecting it to be much higher.”

Though costs are higher than anticipated, Turlock has found additional money in its coffers to pay for the overruns, thanks to a quirk of the statewide redevelopment agency shutdown.

An unexpected, estimated $4 million is now expected to be available through the Turlock Redevelopment Agency Successor Agency for the Public Safety Facility project. Following the California legislature’s budget-savings maneuver to close all RDAs in 2011, “successor agencies,” created to wind down existing debts, may pay off existing obligations – like the Public Safety Facility – even if those obligations come in over budget.

“This is probably the only benefit we’re going to receive out of the state taking our RDA funding away,” Pitcock said.

Council also allocated $170,000 in Prop 1B state transportation grants on Tuesday to pay for higher-than-expected construction costs on roadway improvements needed to accommodate the Public Safety Facility.

Remaining construction costs will total approximately $12.2 million, Pitcock said. In addition to the $4 million in RDA successor funds, and $170,000 in Prop 1B grants, the remaining costs will be paid with $4 million in Capital Facility Fee contingency funds, collected from new development to pay for public facilities, and a $4 million intra-agency loan of CFFs from the CFF General Fund to the CFF Police Fund.

Turlock will attempt to word the intra-city CFF loan in a way which encumbers the Turlock RDA successor agency to repay the debt, but that move will require state approval.

“We think that this is a valid expense,” Pitcock said.

Should the State of California disagree, other options exist to repay the loan. Turlock may opt to use future police and fire CFF revenues from new development, as the Public Safety Facility was built to accommodate such growth.

Turlock has also expressed a desire to repay part of the loan by selling the existing Police Department building on North Palm Street, at an estimated value of $2.5 million. The Turlock Irrigation District has been in negotiations with the City of Turlock to purchase the property, as TID’s main office is adjacent and the district is in need of more office space.

Despite the cost overruns and delays due to soil contamination, the new Public Safety Facility remains on-track for a June 2013 opening.

“We are, basically, still on target for June 2013,” Pitcock said.

The exterior is nearly complete, with some work on the building’s facade due in the coming weeks. The facility’s parking lot and landscaping also remain on the construction schedule.

The building’s interior is much further from completion. Walls, texturing, painting, ceilings, flooring, doors, security systems, and cabinetry all remain on the to-do list.

“The exterior is going to look done, and you’re going to see not a lot of action on the outside, but there are going to be a lot of ants scurrying around on the inside,” Pitcock said.

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