EVERETT — Fixing the city’s long “to-do” list of building repairs could cost more than $150 million over the next 20 years, according to a recently completed assessment.
“Buildings are not forever,” Everett facility manager Jeff Harris said at the City Council meeting last week. “It’s not a mountain or a rock structure. They are semi-permanent structures that need to be maintained over time. There’s quite a cost to that.”
Everett is responsible for cleaning, managing and repairing 143 buildings containing more than 1 million square feet of space used for general government, golf and transit operations. The 1,800-page study from MENG Analysis listed problems ranging from cracked concrete, to failing cooling and heating units, to the need for a backup generator at a fire station. The study ranked whether the repairs should be addressed as a priority, within six years or over the next two decades. The city paid the Seattle-based firm $197,023 for the evaluation.
The majority of the repair costs, more than $130 million, would go toward general government buildings, such as City Hall, the Everett Municipal Building and police precincts. Golf and transit facilities were considered separately and their needed repairs are expected to be paid for without using city property tax revenue. The study excluded public works department buildings. The department has its own facilities repair plan, expected to be finished this year, and could move its headquarters from its current location on Cedar Street, facilities and property management director Paul Kaftanski said.
A 20-year estimate of needed repair work at police headquarters on Wetmore Avenue totalled more than $20 million. Maintenance cost projections at the main Everett Public Library were similar.
“We’re not talking the Rolls-Royce of buildings here,” Harris said. “I’m just saying to keep it going, make sure the lights work, the plumbing works, the heat works, this is what you should be spending.”
Staff can’t keep up with the aging structures and their cooling, heating, electrical and plumbing systems, Everett officials said.
One costly example was the Everett Municipal Building’s elevator controls, a projected $2 million update.
“We have six maintenance workers to manage 143 properties and a million square feet and millions (of dollars) in observed deficiencies,” Mayor Cassie Franklin said. “Obviously for elevators we don’t have the skill set in house, but even when we have the skill set, if it’s an immediate, urgent need, often we don’t have the manpower to deliver on it.”
Everett lacked an emphasis on preventative maintenance, which led to more emergency and patchwork repairs, Harris said.
“Now the HVAC doesn’t work at all in this building,” he said, during the council meeting at the Municipal Building. “And there is nothing I can do except replace the massive HVAC unit on top of this building.”
The city lacked a computerized maintenance-management system to track issues for buildings. The recent study provides a baseline for the city to use as a starting point in its “to-do” list.
“Our team, our very lean and hard-working team, would love to spend their time doing preventative maintenance,” Franklin said. “But there’s too much emergency maintenance happening on a daily basis for us to have any time or ability to do that.”
Based on the analysis, the repair costs are still well below 50% of the replacement value, the tipping point when Everett could consider scrapping and rebuilding, if it had the funds to do so.
“It’s like your house, you don’t want to be underwater on your house,” Harris said. “You don’t want to have to spend $200,000 on a $400,000 house.”
With a to-do list established, the city will prioritize critical problems it can afford to repair based on current funding. Other projects will be up to department heads and the Everett City Council, such as those covered in the long-range strategy, which addresses whether buildings should be kept or sold.
The ability to address its facilities’ needs is complicated by Everett’s ongoing budget deficit. With property tax increases capped at 1% without voter approval and city costs rising at an average of 3.8% mostly due to labor, there’s not much money available without shifting priorities or a voter-backed levy lid lift.