Northwest NEWS

May 3, 1999

Front Page

Police station low bid still over budget

by Marshall Haley, staff reporter

   BOTHELL--The City of Bothell has found itself in the uncomfortable position of publically funding a job two years before construction costs skyrocketed. Police Chief Mark Ericks summed up the problem: "We enjoy a strong economy in this region, with a very brisk construction climate, but that economy comes with a price."

   Less than two years after voters approved a $9.7 million bond issue to build Bothell's first police station since 1938, project officials have found current cost bids have risen to over $11 million. That even exceeds the total of $10.7 million provided by a City Council vote to add one million dollars from city funds. Costs include remodeling a former bank into a municipal court facility.

   The latest area construction boom has created a shortage of qualified workers in various trades for the last two years, so contractors can pick and choose the highest paying jobs, Ericks said.

   City staff and their project management team are presenting various options for cost-cutting to the City Council on Monday, May 3.

   "Our planning team and the general contractors need to sharpen our pencils and review our current designs for fine tuning and looking for items we can cut back on," said City Manager Jim Thompson. "For example, we might be able to find other door locks that will still be good locks, if not the best available. We are providing the City Council with several options, including a recommendation that the bids be re-opened, in hopes of getting more subcontractors involved in the competitive process."

   Public agencies face one problem that private companies do not, Ericks said. "The law requires us to pay wages according to a standard wage scale set by the state that applies to workers in each trade. We are prohibited from negotiating with contractors who might pay workers below those standards."

   Ongoing cost estimates have been done for every stage in the process, said Ericks. "We've tried our best to impress our designers and cost estimators with the importance of coming within our budget," he said. "We aren't talking about problems like $700 toilet seats here. We have excellent people working for us. Dan Vaught, our project manager, is also the Northshore School District Capital Facilities Project Manager, so he has a lot of local experience for such projects. Design consultant Jim McClaren and his Phoenix firm only build police facilities. We have all been surprised by the difference between our estimates and the bids that came in. And the bids from all five general contractors were close to the same range."

   Ericks said a multitude of factors go into a municipal building: it must be durable enough to not require remodeling costs within a few years, big enough to allow for future staff expansion, and must set a design standard for future downtown development.