Turlock Vice Mayor Amy Bublak split with council members Tuesday as the lone voice opposing two contract change orders, totaling nearly $60,000.
Bublak believed the city should not shoulder the cost of the two orders, a $22,162 increase in costs to construct the Carnegie Arts Center, due to changes in design required by heretofore unknown preexisting conditions, and a $37,326.19 change order related to intersection improvements at the corner of Fransil and West Main.
The Carnegie change order was primarily due to contractors encountering unforeseen problems with the existing Carnegie building’s structural integrity. But, as Bublak, who serves on the change order committee, saw it, those problems should have been self-evident in an 80-year-old building which caught on fire twice and had support beams holding the walls up. As such, it should have been built into the contractor’s initial bid, Bublak said.
“In my estimation that should have been obvious,” Bublak said. “To a layman it is so why shouldn’t it be to an engineer? I think they should encumber the cost.”
Councilwoman Mary Jackson sided with the contractor.
“They had no idea what was behind those walls,” Jackson said. “… If we are going to try to micromanage a building project like this, we’ll never get the Public Safety Facility built in my opinion. I think we need to move this forward.”
According to City Engineer Mike Pitcock, the Carnegie change order accounts to .4 percent of the project’s total cost, and 9 percent of the preexisting contingency fund. That contingency fund was established to pay for such unforeseen problems, like things found buried in the ground, or problems with the walls. Traditionally, Pitcock said, projects as large as the Carnegie restoration cost an additional 1-2 percent in change orders.
“We’re going through couches to try to find change to build a (Public Safety) Facility,” Bublak said. “Every dollar we spend on this is a dollar we can’t spend on a necessity, the Public Safety Facility. I don’t know how many more couches we can go through.”
On a 4-1 vote, with Bublak as the lone voice of dissent, council approved the change order as suggested, with the city shouldering the additional $22,162.
The Fransil and West Main change order was required because nearby tenant Foster Farms altered their operating procedures. Initially, the intersection was designed with trucks entering only through Foster Farms’ easternmost driveway; later, Foster Farms informed the city they intended to use the driveway as an exit as well in times of poor visibility or emergency.
The initial signal design did not allow for vehicles to exit from that driveway. The change required an additional signal pole to be installed, as well as vehicle detection for that signal.
“I’m business friendly, I want to help people out, but I’m concerned that we have a lot of change orders that keep coming forward,” Bublak said. “Partnering on the cost would be a more understandable response.”
Pitcock lauded Foster Farms as a good participant in the process, but said they were not intending to share the cost for the change order. Pitcock also said the improvements were already in process, but that staff could go back and ask Foster Farms to pay half of the costs.
The remainder of council opted to move the change order forward as proposed, without asking Foster Farms to pay for any changes.
The Turlock City Council also:
· Appointed Councilwoman Amy Bublak to serve as Vice Mayor for 2011.
· Appointed Turlock Regulatory Affairs Manager Mike Cooke as a representative to the Stanislaus County Local Task Force on Solid Waste, with Municipal Service Director Dan Madden as an alternate.
· Appointed Mayor John Lazar as a representative to the Alliance.
· Held a moment of silence in honor of the Arizona shooting victims.
· Authorized the hiring of a regular, full-time police officer for the Turlock Police Department to fill a position vacated through retirement. The hire was required to meet the council-authorized staffing level of 81 sworn personnel, required to obtain grant funding from the U.S. Department of Justice. A second, related agenda item allowed staff to fill future police officer positions to maintain staffing levels required to obtain grant funding without council authorization.
· Finalized zoning map amendments needed for the Ten Pin Fun Center, an entertainment center including a bowling alley slated for the corner of Crowell Road and Monte Vista Avenue.
· Accepted the 2010 Turlock Convention and Visitors Bureau Annual Report, and approved a $211,445 2011 budget, including about $98,000 in administrative fees, salaries, and benefits. The remaining budget directs $28,000 to communications and advertising, $32,000 to marketing, and $31,500 to community support. The CVB budget is paid from Transient Occupancy Taxes collected by the City of Turlock.
· Agreed to amend the Turlock Municipal Code to better establish restrictions on the retail sale of dogs and cats. The Municipal Code change would clarify that breeders must follow the Animal Welfare Act, enforced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and that “Breeders are required to maintain minimum health, safety and welfare standards for animals in their care.” The ordinance amendment will come back to the council on Jan. 25 for a final reading before becoming law.
· Directed staff to provide council with a quarterly update comparing revenues from the new, metered water billing system and the previous flat rate system. Council was informed in 2009 that the existing metered rate would likely not cover just 90 percent of city water costs, but then directed staff to leave rates untouched and instead dip into reserve funds for the first year of operation. Based on the actual cost differential, staff will return to Council with recommendations for metered billing rate changes prior to January 2012.
· Authorized spending $55,000 to participate in a pilot test of a new "Packed Towers" technology intended to reduce levels of a certain chemical in Turlock's treated wastewater. The levels of Trihalomethane required by a new Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board permit –as lower than allowed in drinking water – are below what Turlock's treatment plant can consistently achieve.
· Authorized spending $13,500 to perform a salinity study on effluent from Turlock's wastewater treatment plant. The aforementioned new permit requires an annual report demonstrating progress in the reduction of salt discharged to the San Joaquin River. The study is also expected to help Turlock learn how to reduce that salinity level.
· Issued a proclamation recognizing the retirement of Traffic/Transportation Engineering Supervisor Roger Fall. Proclamations were to be issued in honor of fellow retirees Senior Secretary Norma Rowell and Utilities Maintenance Worker Tony Lozano, but neither were able to attend.
· Postponed a presentation from Don Bak of the Fly the Flag Committee, who looks to fly American Flags around Turlock on holidays. Bak was unable to attend Tuesday’s meeting.
· Heard a presentation from Jody Allen, president elect of the California Water Environment Association Northern San Joaquin Section, recognizing the Turlock wastewater treatment plant as 2010 Plant of the Year.
· Received a briefing on the Holiday Parade, which drew between 20,000 and 25,000 attendees.
· Received an update on Turlock’s proposed Transit Center, a bus hub slated for the triangle of land bordered by Del’s Lane, Monte Vista Avenue, and Hawkeye Avenue. Receiving final approval from the Federal Transportation Authority for the needed grants has been slow going, city staff said, but on Jan. 1 the city was given the green light to make an offer to the current property owners. The owners have yet to formally accept the offer, but final documents will come before the council at such time an agreement is reached.
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail email@example.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.