The city will likely spend $5 million less than anticipated on a rebuild of the Department of Public Works (DPW) headquarters, even though the projected cost of the project is now $5 million more than originally budgeted.
That’s thanks to $10 million in state bond money for a demolition and construction project.
Members of the Board of Alders City Services and Environmental Policy (CSEP) Committee heard that update this past Thursday night, then voted in support of the city accepting the $10 million grant from the state Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) for the demolition of the current DPW headquarters and construction of a new headquarters at 34 Middletown Ave. The item now goes to the full Board of Alders for a final vote.
“The state came through with $10 million,” City Engineer Giovanni Zinn said, “requiring a $5 million match from the city. That’s created a pool of $15 million for the facility, which we’re very grateful for.”
The city had originally budgeted $10 million in city capital funds for the project in this fiscal year’s budget, which was adopted in July 2018.
In the intervening six months, Zinn said, the city and a structural engineering firm it has hired for the project determined that the existing three-story maintenance, parking, storage, and office facility on Middletown Avenue is in even worse shape than originally thought. The cost estimate to demolish and repair two floors and redo the 1950s-era building’s mechanical and electrical systems bumped up to $15 million, he said.
Then the city reached out to the state, and managed to secure the $10 million grant from DECD during Sep. 2018’s State Bond Commission meeting. That state money requires that the city match the state funds with $5 million of its own. Zinn said that match is still $5 million less than what the city was initially planning to spend on the project.
Zinn said the infusion of state dollars has also allowed the city and its engineering partners to come up with a new solution for creating a stable DPW headquarters, where everything from city snow plows to garbage trucks are stored and serviced. The city now plans to demolish the existing three-story building, and build two new buildings on the site: one dedicated to maintenance, one dedicated to parking and storage.
“The building is worse than we had anticipated in terms of the extent of the issues,” Zinn said about the current structure at 34 Middletown. “We actually think they poured the two floors in the winter in the 1950s. We found a very consistent background level of salt in the concrete,” which in the long run contributed to the building’s degradation.
Now, Zinn said, the city plans to put a new maintenance building on the wedge-shaped plot of land, and then build a new three-level, pre-cast parking structure for passenger cars, trash vehicles, and snow plows. These new buildings will be more energy efficient than the existing structure, he said. They will be handicap accessible, whereas the current building is now.
Zinn said the city hopes to begin construction sometime in 2019, and that it will build the maintenance building first, relocate office staff there, demolish the current three-story facility, and then build the new three-story garage.
“What is your target time frame for construction?” asked Westville Alder Adam Marchand.
Zinn said this is probably a one or two-year project.
“The big benefit to the city,” Zinn said, “is that we save $5 million.”
State Money For Sidewalks, Too
Alders also voted on Thursday night unanimously in support of the city accepting $2.3 million in state aid to fund sidewalk repairs. That bond money was also released by the state to the city at Seprember 2018’s Bond Commission meeting. The item now goes to the full board for a final vote.
“The $2.3 million will basically double the quantity of sidewalks we’re able to do” this spring, Zinn said. He said the city last completed a citywide sidewalk assessment in 2016, and that it will do its next citywide sidewalk assessment in 2021.
Zinn said the city chooses which sidewalks to repair based on a number of factors, including current state of disrepair and proximity to schools, parks, and playgrounds.
He said the city completed sidewalk repairs at around 200 city addresses this fall. The next round of repairs, he said, should begin in the late spring or early summer. He did not share a list of which sidewalks are next up for repair.