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Plan for justice center comes in a bit pricey.

Byline: Jack Moran The Register-Guard

SPRINGFIELD - City officials are scrambling to shave about $2 million from the construction budget for a new public-safety complex after consultants submitted cost estimates for the project that exceed their available funds.

The situation is not expected to cause any significant delay or changes to the voter-approved plan, city project manager Carole Knapel said.

"Although it's not good news to come in over budget, it's certainly something that's manageable," Knapel said. "We just want to make sure we have the project within the budget when we take it to the City Council because, obviously, they're not going to approve anything over that."

Knapel had initially planned to present the project budget to councilors next week. But after reviewing separate cost estimates from the project's architect and construction manager, both of which exceeded the budget, she decided to push back the presentation date to July 10.

Knapel worked with the consultants this week to reconcile the two estimates. At the end of that process, it was determined that about $2.1 million in cuts would need to be made to meet the budget.

Springfield voters in 2004 approved a $28.65 million bond measure to build a new justice center. The actual construction budget is about $24 million. The rest of the money is being used to pay consultant and staff costs associated with planning and designing the project, Knapel said.

The complex will include a new police station and municipal court building. Plans also call for construction of a 100-bed municipal jail to house misdemeanor-level offenders. However, the jail portion of the project is not expected to be built unless voters approve a tax levy in November to fund a portion of operational costs for the lockup facility.

Knapel said she expects changes to the justice center will be "mostly aesthetic," and will not involve reducing important elements such as courtroom space or jail beds.

"We won't be taking out anything functional," Knapel said. "And while we may be using some different materials, the appearance of the building will still look good."

The project's budget has been hit by steep increases in the price of concrete, steel, asphalt and other construction materials during the past two years, Knapel said.

It's a situation that many public agencies are facing, said Ken Simonsen, chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America.

"Absolutely, this sort of thing is happening in a lot of places," Simonsen said. "With (Springfield's) bond issue going through two years ago, that's very key, because before 2004, there was very little inflation with construction materials."

Given the recent rise in building costs, Springfield City Councilor John Woodrow said he's somewhat relieved to know that no major changes to the scope of the justice center project are expected. He said it's not surprising that consultants submitted estimates that require some design changes.

"I kind of anticipated this, and to tell you the truth, I'm kind of pleased it didn't come in (even higher)," Woodrow said. "I don't think anyone figured on prices going up the way they have."

Knapel and project consultants will discuss potential design modifications with police and municipal court officials, and a citizen-advisory committee before presenting the scaled-back plan to the City Council.

Construction is expected to begin early next year.

CAPTION(S):

An architectural drawing, looking southwest, shows the concept for Springfield's new justice center, to be built downtown at Fourth and A streets.
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Title Annotation:Government; But officials are confident that it can be brought under budget without compromising the building's function
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jun 24, 2006
Words:574
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