Following up on Charlie's thread about Schools First, I wanted to put forth some information about Garfield's renovation.
First, I am not trying to pick on Garfield; this could have happened with any historic remodel (and hey, it did to some degree with Ballard and Roosevelt so you'd think they would have learned from those projects). Neither Ballard nor Roosevelt were on-time or on-budget (the buildings may have opened on-time but that doesn't mean they were finished).
I had requested, via public disclosure, budgets, change orders, transfers of money to the Garfield project. It was everything I thought I might need to just see how much this project started with and got to at the end. (Sadly, we are not done with the various claims from contractors so the final number is not known.)
What I got was pretty laughable. The "budget" was a PowerPoint presentation given to the Board in April. As I pointed out to the Board in an e-mail, I know they all know what a budget sheet looks like and this wasn't it. This document was also supposed to contain all the change orders and transfers but again, it is not laid out in a clear fashion so you can clearly see where the money went. The other document showed expenditures but not in a way you could clearly track.
I did not expect a new document just for me. I know staff is busy. But there HAS to be a clear document somewhere that accounts for the coming and going of money for this project. That's what I would want to see as a Board member. Also, they seem to use "budget" sometimes and "contract" sometimes without any explanation when speaking of numbers. I'm sure there is a difference but no document explains it.
So I culled together numbers (all from district documents) and here's what I came up with:
In the presentation in April 2009, staff said that the first budget number for Garfield was $56M. (I never found this number in any document but I take their word for it.) Then they reference that the budget grew to $74M plus $6M for historic concrete work. That would make the budget $80M but the final number is more like $87M. The levy fact sheet for voters (September 20,2000) gave the budget as $60.9M. According to the BEX II Garfield webpage, the budget was $107M (this was likely written around 2001-2002).
So here is it by date:
date unknown - $56M
2000 - $60.9 M
2001 - $107 M
2006 –$ 87M
2009 - $112,529,000
Staff said, in the presentation, that the current budget was $112,529,000 and that they needed $119,640,000 to cover all claims. At the $87M figure, they told the Board:
"This represents an increase of 17% from the original contract amount and 9% for changed work."
So you can go from $119,640,000 and figure out how far out we are now. From the Board meeting of April 3, 2009:
"Funding for the remaining $610,000 shortfall will be determined when the outstanding claims are resolved, if necessary. "
So they have figured out how to cover most claims but all are not finished and they have a $600k shortfall.
They also claim that the changes to date were $7,740,000. However, Ms. Stevens sent me a document that is a Change Order Summary from Lease Crutcher Lewis dated 7/12/06 that states that, as of that date, the total change orders (approved, pending and estimated) was $10,625,771. That’s quite a difference especially given the number the Board received was April 2009 and the number I have is from July of 2006.
I have tried to figure out where all the additional money to pay off the rising costs has come from but it is a maze. There were at least two transfers from other accounts, Hamilton’s at $5.4M and South Shore at $1.5M. (Hey, good news, they saved money on these projects. What would have happened if they hadn't?) It also seems that money came from the current BEX program reserves at about $2.9M. And we can’t forget the money allotted to SBOC under BEX II(which oddly doesn’t show up in the presentation in April as being transferred to Garfield) at somewhere between $10-$14M. I am unclear on this total as $14M is what is in the levy sheet but I was told it was more likely $10M.
How did it happen? Well here are some reasons given from Board meetings:
-difficulty finding any company to do the historic concrete work
-change orders totalling almost $8M
-claims by contractors about changes (the district hasn't done so well in arguing these if you read between the lines in the BEX Oversight committee meeting minutes)
- escalating costs (this was true during the period when Garfield was being built)
- site impacts basic on incomplete documents
- weather claims
- labor inefficiencies
So really, by the end, I think Garfield will have cost $120M which, if you started from their figure of $56M, is pretty devastating.
Now when I attended the BEX Oversight Committee meeting last Friday, there were several things said/discussed that did not inspire confidence. Things like:
-a committee member casually asking the final figure on Garfield and two staffers giving different figures
- a discussion of how to get contractors to finish the job (the punchlist). It was fairly mind-blowing to know that the people in charge of capital projects really have not figured out a way to resolve this issue. A BEX manager suggested that the district just do it to get it done. It was pointed out that might void warranties. I would add that maintenance crews need to be fixing buildings that need fixes, not doing finish work.
- are we overdesigning buildings? Do we need a rotunda for a K-8 building? Interestingly the person who brought this up got talked down because "we don't want cookie-cutter schools". How about a happy (meaning realistic) medium?
- the difficulty - and they are serious - about saying no to school staff requests. This one really angers me because they knew, very early on, about the difficulties of finding someone to do the historic concrete work and how much it would add on but they still couldn't find a way to say no to staff?
- do they give themselves enough time to build, putting in time in case there are problems? There was discussion about how to get more time but once again, we have to rush because the next school on the list needs the interim building. That might point to the need to do more Hale-type rebuilds with students on-site. If we are spending more because we are rushing to finish, it's penny-wise and pound foolish.
- a manager saying, "Hopefully Garfield is one of these projects we learned something from." You think so? And, by the way, this is not the district's first time around the block on historic rebuilds. When will we learn they are much harder and much, much more expensive? Something has to give.
This is why I argue about the capital money. This project is the poster child for the district not learning from past experiences, not saying no when they knew costs were escalating and, to my mind, overbuilding.
We have got to do better.