County building cost rises

EVERETT – Snohomish County government’s new campus will cost $3 million more than expected, officials in charge of the $170 million project said Monday.

The total cost is now about $170 million. The project had a $6 million cushion, but went $3 million over budget.

* The county plans to pay the extra $3 million by selling bonds. The county will sell another $3.1 million in bonds to renovate its existing administration building.

* $4.7 million was needed to remove contaminated soil, and for additional work caused by an underground spring.

* Increased prices of steel and new features to the jail also added to budget overruns.

* Future county budgets will cover the $1.9 million costs for leasing furniture.

The rising price tag means the plan to renovate the old jail has been canceled, and the county also will need to sell another $3.1 million in bonds to renovate its existing administration building.

Future county budgets also will be hit to cover the $1.9 million costs for leasing furniture for the new buildings.

County Council members are looking for a silver lining, however.

Some said that given the size of the redevelopment, the extra costs will only amount to a 1 percent increase or so to the project’s bottom line.

“Most of these are items we didn’t have any control over,” County Council Chairman Gary Nelson said.

Although the budget for the project – which includes an expanded county jail, an underground garage and a new administration building – included extra money for overruns, the unexpected costs flattened that cushion.

Unexpected costs for the project now total more than $9 million.

“Everybody likes it when a project comes in under budget,” County Councilman Dave Gossett said. “But this is a very large project. And it came in very, very close to budget.”

Almost half of the $9 million in unforeseen costs, approximately $4.7 million, were charges for removing contaminated soil and for pumping out water when digging for the garage tapped an underground spring.

“If we had run into all the other challenges that we incurred in the project, and these two major challenges had not occurred, we wouldn’t be asking for an increase,” finance director Roger Neumaier said.

Other unanticipated revisions included $300,000 for moving the campus cafe outdoors, about $872,000 in changes required by Everett so the new structures would comply with building regulations, and $320,000 in floor-plan changes.

The increased price of steel and additional features to the new jail, including revisions to the inmate staging area, also were cited as reasons for the overruns.

The county plans to pay the extra $3 million by selling bonds. More bonds, approximately $3.1 million worth, also will be sold to pay for remodeling the existing administration building.

The higher costs mean other changes for the redevelopment project. Those include keeping the county’s work-release program in the Carnegie library.

The County Council will be asked to approve a bond sale to pay for completing the campus project and renovating the old administration building.

Councilman John Koster said the council’s options are limited, and council members may be able to ask only for a full accounting of how the campus budget was spent.

“That admin building obviously needs some updating,” Koster said.

“The buildings are built. It’s water under the bridge,” he added. “Maybe we should have had a bigger contingency (fund) in the project when we started.”

County Council members weren’t completely blindsided by the higher costs of the largest construction project in the county’s history. The project should wrap up in three months.

Changes in the project, such as the contaminated soil and need for an eighth floor on the administration building, have been known for some time.

“I just don’t think it was a large surprise for them,” said Larry Van Horn, the county’s facilities management director.

“I believe that over the course of the last five years we’ve done an awful lot of updates to the council, and they had been apprised of all of these conditions that we had to meet that were unanticipated or not in the scope of the original work,” he said.

Reporter Brian Kelly: 425-339-3422 or

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