Photo By: Town Crier File Photos
Phase 1A of the First Street project, above during construction and below after, came in over budget.
The Los Altos City Council officially put to rest the much-maligned first phase of the city’s First Street streetscape project July 24 when it unanimously approved its notice of completion.
With the vote, the council also approved three budget reallocations for the Phase 1A project’s final construction cost of $2,126,586 – approximately $642,000 more than its original base contract award of $1,484,320 to Robert A. Bothman Inc.
To cover the additional costs, the council approved the reallocation of $118,000 in PG&E Rule 20A utility undergrounding funds to the project and $200,000 in annual street resurfacing dollars.
In addition, the council redirected $250,000 from the city’s annual special projects and studies fund, which Los Altos Finance Director Russ Morreale called a “contingency” fund.
Prior to approving the item on the council’s consent calendar, Mayor Val Carpenter expressed her disappointment in the project’s cost overruns and delayed completion.
Carpenter noted that the project was completed in April 2012 after original estimates by the city called for construction to wrap up by the end of October 2011.
Carpenter told the Town Crier that she cast one of two dissenting votes in May 2011 against proceeding with the project over concern that any construction delays during the holiday season would negatively impact residents and retailers.
“It was at least 50 percent over the (project) schedule,” she said. “The two-month or three-month project went to nine months, and I’m really hoping we don’t do that again under our new city manager.”
A city staff report noted that the project came in above its original budget “due to various unforeseen conditions encountered during construction.”
The report stated that the project had 36 change-order modifications and attributed construction delays to “grading revisions for drainage and code compliance” and the “incorporation of post-design changes in the landscaping.”
As previously reported in the Town Crier, then-City Manager Doug Schmitz outlined the project’s challenges in his final city council meeting March 27.
At the time, Schmitz attributed one of the delays to inaccurate schematics of a waterline underneath First Street that required the city to wait for the California Water Service Company to schedule repairs.
Other delays, he noted, included an effort to save sycamore trees that required engineers to redirect the project’s conduit alignments, as well as the post-design incorporation of street improvements funded by a downtown property owner.