Airport Basin: 60-percent design phase approved

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By Carol A. Clark

The Airport Basin project now moves into the 60-percent phase following a nearly unanimous vote by county councilors during a special meeting Thursday in Council Chambers.

Public Works Director Kyle Zimmerman walked council through the meeting.

Zimmerman explained the changes and cost savings that have occurred since council approved the 30-percent design phase May 1, 2007. At that time, council approved the addition of Value Engineering Services to the scope of the project, which has facilitated the identification of efficiencies and savings potential.

“Some of the major changes from the 30- to 60-percent design phase include reduced parking,” Zimmerman said, adding that they don’t need a space for every employee because many employees carpool.

Concrete curb and gutter removal from non-essential locations, retaining wall and slope protection reduction, site layout change to reduce amount of imported fill dirt, change to LED lighting and use of detention ponds are changes that have resulted in greater efficiency as well as project cost savings, he said.

Zimmerman used powerpoint slides to illustrate where project changes have occurred, including the biggest changes of taking Building B from one story to two, adding the school transit from Building D and changing exterior walls from concrete sandwich panels to concrete shirts with metal panel walls above 3 feet.

Zimmerman also explained that there was an important deadline looming in June.

New Mexico has adopted the 2006 International Building Code (IBC), he said, and the project has been designed under the current 2003 IBC.

“We have until June 30 to submit a foundation permit to lock in the 2003 IBC,” he said, adding that it could cost a three- to four-month delay and associated costs if they miss that deadline and are forced to revamp their designs to the 2006 IBC.

Zimmerman told council the project is on target to meet the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) silver certification.

The current total estimated project costs are $74,984,146 compared to $75,240,545 at this time last year, Zimmerman said – a cost savings of .34 percent. “Back in May 2007, staff was told to go forth and cut,” he said. “We did that and unfortunately escalation has taken up those cuts.”

“This is the best presentation I’ve seen on this project,” Hall said. “As you know, I’ve long been a critic on the progress and cost of this project, this is the largest project undertaken by the county with the exception of the dams at El Vado and Abiquiu.”

In its 6-to-1 vote, council directed staff to move forward with the current design concepts and proceed to final design.

The motion approved the project budgets for the Airport Basin Site, Trinity Site Demolition and the animal shelter relocation to East Park. The motion also approved the award of the Construction Manager-at-Risk Services Agreement (CMAR) to Hensel Phelps Construction New Mexico, LLC, which authorizes the company to proceed on preconstruction services of $79,949, plus applicable GRT.

One situation that has impacted the project is the turnover of project managers.

Current project manager David Apple took back the helm of the project in February for the third time and his mere presence has enhanced project confidence.

“The fact that you’re back on it gives me more confidence than I’ve had in a long time,” Hall said.

Councilor Vice Chair Robert Gibson placed the lone vote opposing the motion.

Citing too little contingency money in the budget given the amount that remains to be done, he said, “My big problem is confidence ... What basis should we have for any confidence based on what we’ve seen so far?”

Gibson brought up schedule delays and square footage expansions, asking county staff several pointed questions and at times appearing angry.

Councilor Mike Wheeler took exception and spoke out against Gibson.

“We don’t accept personal attacks from the audience against this council and to Councilor Gibson – questioning the competence of staff comes damn close to a personal attack – I would admonish Councilor Gibson to refrain from that in the future,” Wheeler said.

Later in the meeting, Gibson said his comments about the project weren’t directed at any particular individual and that there was plenty of blame to go around – including at the council level – for “how we’ve gotten ourselves into this dire situation.”

Council Chair Jim Hall called for quarterly progress updates and said he thought council had been somewhat remiss in not requesting updates on the project sooner.

The project now moves forward to 60-percent design proceeding with a goal of achieving some of the required site work later this summer.

Editors note: Information about presentations by Hensel Phelps, WHPacific and others, as well as public comments will be included in a follow-up article.