Monday, April 24, 2006

Library dollars and sense

The first item on tonight’s council workshop agenda is the long-awaited discussion of Port City Architecture’s analysis of the proposed library basement renovation.

The PCA analysis, commissioned by the Gray Public Library Association last February, takes a thorough look at the cost and implications of renovating the library basement as a short-term solution to the facility’s pressing need for more space.

The basement renovation plan was put forth by Andy Upham in the aftermath of last year’s Pennell/GPLA debacle. Based on information he obtained from a 1999 edition of the R.S. Means Construction Cost Data guide, Upham determined that the basement could be transformed into what he called “white space” – an empty room with an elevator, updated mechanical infrastructure, and finished floors and ceiling ready for further customization – for the sum of $160,000. He later amended that amount to $200,000 after Gray CEO Paul White pointed out stairway, elevator, and other code deficiencies in his original proposal. Upham’s initial budget is on the sidebar at right. CEO White appears to be the only construction professional consulted by Upham in the course of developing his budget.

The Port City Architecture report, prepared in conjunction with Allied Construction and AWM Engineering, establishes a conceptual budget of $513,000. Like Upham’s budget, this amount is also limited to creating a basic space suitable for further customization -- in other words, a bare-bones budget.

The huge difference between Upham’s proposal and the PCA report is the result of PCA's identification of standard construction cost categories that Upham did not include, such as construction management, insurance, parking, design, and contingencies; more realistic budget numbers; and mandatory code requirements that the basement renovation will trigger, such as a building-wide sprinkler system and ventilation improvements. PCA puts code compliance costs alone at over $155,000.

Upham’s failure to note such required expenses in his renovation budget indicates a profound misunderstanding of the complexities of commercial construction. Advocating a massive commitment of taxpayer capital based on such a demonstrably amateurish, incomplete proposal can only be described as reckless.

Will Andy acknowledge reality or shoot the messenger tonight? Should be interesting.