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Friday, October 19, 2007

Capital Projects Fast Tracked

There were two articles, one in the PI and one in the Times, about the Facilities Department fast tracking the next building/remodeling cycle. From the Times:

"The new schedule establishes the following completion dates:

• The South Shore project, which includes K-8 facilities for The New School, will be done in July 2009, as planned;

• Hamilton Middle School: July 2010, also as planned;

• Ingraham High School: a year early, in March 2010; • the Denny-Sealth combined campus, a year early, in July 2011; • the Nathan Hale remodel, two years early, in July 2010. The acceleration means community outreach will have to be done more quickly — "We're going to be moving at a pace that may be uncomfortable," Trainor said — but the district still plans to do as much outreach as it has for other building projects."

The district did a bond measure this past spring (as opposed to a levy) because they would get the bond money faster than a levy and thus be able to get started faster and try to stay out ahead of the costs. From the PI:

"The higher construction costs have largely been driven by the increasing global demand for raw materials such as steel and cement, and by local competition for labor and materials to build housing and retail developments in Ballard, Belltown or South Lake Union."

Also:

"Instead, they're considering a plan to use nearly $14.5 million from the bond's built-in contingency fund to speed up the planning and construction timeline."

So the district has a contingency fund(15% of the project) for each project plus about $20M in general capital reserve (all this was built into the cost planning). The district put forth a motion at last Wednesday's board meeting to put all the funds, from 5 projects, into one pot.

I had discussed this with a staff member in Facilities. I asked if the money would be used for exactly what is already been stated in the bond measure. Yes. And the money can't be used for anything else? No. I've been pondering if this move is just a a sensible one given the escalating building costs or if there is something I may be missing.

My one caveat is that the district is not good about holding the contractors feet to the fire after a job is done. One example is at Roosevelt where the ventilation for heating/cooling hasn't worked properly since it reopened and now, somehow the district is going to be on the hook to replace it. Frankly, it feels like any job a contractor does at your home. Once 90% is done, they want to move on.

The other caveat is that the district has problems tracking one or two jobs. If you look at their timeline, they have many overlapping projects. I have to wonder about their ability to track multiple projects AND keep contractors accountable.

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