From early on, I have questioned the redevelopment of the Public Works Complex, otherwise known as the “Campus Plan.”
It has been extremely expensive in federal, state and town expenditures. It has already cost over $36 million, when initially we were told that the cost would be just under $26 million.
The state allocated $18 million in federal pass-thru money, the town spent over $11.4 million since construction began, and the ground level parking lot cost over $7 million in land acquisition and interest to date.
The ground level parking lot was recently constructed and enhanced to eventually facilitate a five-story employee parking garage with a helipad when the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) decide to build it.
Given the last bid opening, we can expect the garage to cost upwards of $8 million in the not too distant future. By the time this project is finally completed, the total cost will approach $45 million.
This whole project has been poorly managed by the M&CC since they proceeded with this massive undertaking. In spite of opening bids that revealed excessive amounts over initial estimates, the M&CC pushed forward anyway.
The Campus Plan is a textbook case of how not to build and fund a major capital project.
As reported in an email from Hal Adkins, director of Public Works, dated July 16, 2020, which appears in the council agenda packet for their meeting on July 20, normally a project as large as the Campus Plan would have an overall contingency fund of 10 percent or over $2.5 million.
However, it appears that the town only had a contingency fund in the amount of just under $319,000, a point that Hal made in his July 16 email when he wrote “… we started the overall construction effort with an extremely minimal Contingency Funding Level…”
Earlier estimates reflected a town contingency fund at over $926,000, but that was before bids were opened that dramatically increased the overall costs.
Why would the town start a project of this size and complexity with such a small contingency fund?
In July of 2020, the contingency fund dropped to $59,000.
With an estimated six months remaining before “completion” of the project, the City Council voted to transfer $113,700 from a Boardwalk fund to the Campus Plan contingency fund for fixtures, furniture and equipment.
Why not at least delay the purchase of new furniture? Moreover, is it really needed? This is not the way to manage finances and capital projects.
Vincent dePaul Gisriel Jr.