Mu­nic­i­pal cam­pus cost up by mil­lions

Price tag for town­ship com­plex rises from $8.5M to $11.5M

The Morning Call - - FRONT PAGE - By Sarah M. Wo­j­cik

Plans for South White­hall’s new mu­nic­i­pal com­plex are mov­ing ahead, but the es­ti­mated price tag for the work has bal­looned by about $3 mil­lion, of­fi­cials say.

Steven Carr, South White­hall’s direc­tor of fi­nance, re­cently told the com­mis­sion­ers he felt com­pelled to keep them up-to-date on the cost es­ti­mates based on the boom­ing con­struc­tion mar­ket, but hoped that the prices would tum­ble be­fore bid ma­te­ri­als go out in Oc­to­ber.

“We re­ally hope we catch the front end of these com­pa­nies fill­ing in their con­struc­tion sched­ule,” Carr said. “But we wanted to give you a feel of the cost en­vi­ron­ment of to­day.”

When mu­nic­i­pal of­fi­cials pre­sented the plans for a ma­jor ren­o­va­tion of the Wal­bert Av­enue mu­nic­i­pal cam­pus in April, costs were es­ti­mated at about $8.5 mil­lion.

But Carr said square footage prices have climbed sig­nif­i­cantly in the in­terim, from $220 per square foot to $290 per square foot for ren­o­va­tion and from $275 per square foot to $350 per square foot for new con­struc­tion. Now the project’s cost is hov­er­ing around $11.5 mil­lion.

As the de­sign phase moves for­ward, Carr said pro­fes­sion­als will have more specifics in hand for a truer pric­ing of the project.

Com­mis­sion­ers told Carr to keep them posted on the price tag, noth­ing that it was still early in the process. The elected of­fi­cials in­di­cated they’d want to see more spe­cific es­ti­mates be­fore mak­ing any ma­jor changes to the di­rec­tion of the project.

Com­mis­sion­ers au­tho­rized $450,000 in un­used cap­i­tal funds for the new cam­pus mas­ter plan project. The money, Carr ex­plained, was for projects that have been de­layed and now will be used to hire pro­fes­sion­als and pay for per­mit­ting.

The need for a new mu­nic­i­pal cam­pus was laid out in very spe­cific de­tail in April. Depart­ment heads de­scribed cramped of­fices where de­vel­op­ment plans were stuffed into ev­ery avail­able inch of space, pub­lic works equip­ment was left in the el­e­ments and the po­lice depart­ment shower reg­u­larly over­flowed with sewage.

Com­mis­sion­ers gave the green light for mas­sive ren­o­va­tions at the 46-year-old cam­pus. The work will cre­ate a more ef­fi­cient re­cep­tion area for the pub­lic, larger meet­ing ar­eas and will re­work space for the po­lice and pub­lic works de­part­ments. The plan also in­cludes ad­di­tional park­ing around the com­plex and in the rear of the Park­land Li­brary, which is ad­ja­cent to the mu­nic­i­pal build­ing. The changes will be a big boost for safety since li­brary vis­i­tors fre­quently park in il­le­gal spa­ces in the front of the build­ing, Carr said.

Bal­loon­ing con­struc­tion costs have been mak­ing an im­pact on new school projects in what in­dus­try pro­fes­sion­als say is one of the most com­pet­i­tive build­ing sea­sons in years. Carr said a num­ber of re­gional mu­nic­i­pal projects is cre­at­ing the same prob­lem for town­ships and bor­oughs.

A shrink­ing con­struc­tion work­force has co­in­cided with a busy build­ing pe­riod, al­low­ing com­pa­nies and ven­dors to raise prices and be pick­ier about which jobs they pur­sue.

Early bid­ding is the most fre­quently pre­scribed rem­edy for the is­sue. Ex­perts say that’s the best way to lock in a lower price since com­pa­nies have noth­ing on the sched­ule and can’t gam­ble on an­other boom­ing con­struc­tion sea­son.

Carr said the of­fi­cials in­volved in the South White­hall project will be fru­gal, but not so much so that they lose sight of the goal.

“In watch­ing this team work, I can tell you ev­ery­one is cost-con­scious,” Carr told com­mis­sion­ers. “But they also un­der­stand that we want to make this project last into the fu­ture.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.