Cost overruns have added some $250,000 to the construction of the new library. Now, just a block away, Zephyrhills city officials are looking to spend at least that much more on Fire Rescue Station No. 2 where a renovation project has gone awry.
And Zephyrhills City Council members aren’t happy.
Renovations for the 54-year-old building were expected to cost just over $1 million, but could now reach as high as $1.3 million. All because when workers started demolishing parts of the original fire station, they found a structure much different than they had anticipated. In fact, it was one that seemed never to be built to code, held up mostly by weak walls and a lot of luck.
“To make it more complex, there are three buildings there,” said Leo Arroyo, a principal at Canerday Belfsky Arroyo Architects, who is working on the project. “Those buildings were designed independently, and they lean against each other. We found that most of the exterior walls — north, west and south — did not have any reinforcement. There wasn’t any rebar. Just masonry style on top.”
Much of that construction dates back to when volunteers were recruited to help build and expand the fire station over the decades, city officials said. According to history, the structure on Sixth Avenue and Seventh Street was Fire Rescue Station No. 1, but was renamed in 2000 when the city built a new fire station on Dairy Road.
City council president Charlie Proctor, worried about more backlash from yet another product going well over budget, wanted to know at a recent meeting why the project didn’t stop earlier to address these new issues.
“The first I heard about this was last week,” Proctor said during a May 12 meeting. “I figured something was up. It didn’t look like we were moving too fast on that project.”
However, a lot of the issues didn’t start appearing until major demolition work started, Arroyo said. The first hint of a problem came when the roofing system was dismantled. Still, workers thought walls would at the very least be properly reinforced.
Interim city manager Steve Spina said some 20 change orders to the project had been processed since January, with additional expenses of more than $32,000 already approved, and another $46,000 pending. Those change orders involved replacing the roof on the west side of the building, electrical upgrades and additional demolition.
If the city hadn’t approved those orders quickly, there was a chance the contractor would have walked off the job, incurring extra costs because of the construction delays.
Additional money is sought for redesign costs and structural improvements, costing an estimated $167,000.
The total, $245,000, would put the fire station remodel 23 percent over budget.
“I just gotten some people coming to me today complaining about the library, which I’ve heard about for a year and a half,” Proctor said, citing those cost overruns. “And now they are wanting to know why this is going to cost this much extra. The citizens I’m talking to about this are not happy about this.”
Proctor was more concerned, however, on whether or not the contractor and architect would come back with more cost overruns in the future. Spina said he would need more time to figure out hard costs, and was expected to present that information during a special meeting May 27, after The Laker went to press.
The question now becomes if it would have been cheaper to simply tear down the fire station and build a new one, then refurbish the existing structure. That could have been possible, Zephyrhills planning director Todd Vande Berg said, but then a good chunk of the money used to pay for the project would not have been available.
The city received $750,000 from the federal Community Development Block Grant program, but that money was restricted to existing building renovations, not a new build.
Councilman Ken Burgess felt the city could save some money by delaying some of the aesthetic work until later, and just getting the interior finished.
“We can divert some of the costs that are more cosmetic in nature and get the fire station where it is operational,” he said. “What we need to do is get the building back up to code as best as we can.”
Even with the cost overrun, the city would be able to pay for the changes, Spina said. A lot of the money could come from the Penny for Pasco tax, which has collected $200,000 more than the city had anticipated. He also suggested sharing some of the costs with the city’s sanitation fund, since that department also will be housed in the new building.
Get the latest on what the city council decided from the May 27 meeting from our daily news section at LakerLutzNews.com.
Published May 28, 2014
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