Independent review finds Renton library costs 'reasonable'

An independent review has determined that the costs for the two new libraries in Renton are reasonable.

Based on the explanations provided by the architecture and engineering teams and special situations surrounding each library project, the city feels comfortable that these costs are within reasonable range, said Iwen Wang, city finance and information technology administrator.

There are concerns about having enough money in the city’s budget to cover the cost of building the redesigned Highlands Library, but officials say the preliminary budget for the downtown Renton library is in “good shape.”

The city addressed concerns community members raised last April about the appropriateness of architecture and engineering costs for the library projects. At the time, the citizens requested an independent review of costs and the city selected The Robinson Co. as the third-party reviewer.

Wang explained The Robinson Co.’s findings at Monday night’s Renton City Council Committee of the Whole meeting.

The total budget for the downtown library is $10.4 million. Project architect nds, Miller Hull’s engineer’s estimate for the downtown library is $6.2 million and The Robinson Co.’s estimate is $6.5 million. The engineer’s estimate represents the base construction costs without taxes, contingencies and other factors.

The total budget for the Highlands Library is $10 million. Project architect THA Architecture’s engineer’s estimate is $6.8 million and The Robinson Co. came up with $7.5 million for their estimate.

Wang said she wasn’t really surprised by the differences in cost estimates in the report because all can be explained and the construction estimates are just estimates. Both estimates fall within the total project budget because of contingencies, she said.

“At this time, if the construction costs are as predicted by The Robinson Company, the project budgets have sufficient project contingency funds, the “cushion” to cover the estimated higher construction costs,” said Wang via email Tuesday. “But for the new Highlands library, this will nearly exhaust all of its project contingencies; future unexpected situations may require additional contributions from the city.”

Wang did urge caution, saying that the real results would be known in the next few months, when the projects go out to bid and real costs can be established.

A key finding of the report was a roughly $160,000 difference in the King County Library Systems’ contract with Miller Hull for architecture and design services and what The Robinson Co. feels the firm should be charging.

“As explained by Miller Hull, they believe the fees are necessary based on their past experience working with KCLS and what is expected of their team, and part of the higher A&E fee is for the enhanced construction administration that they believe would help to minimize construction change orders later,” Wang said, regarding the architecture and engineering costs.

Jay Covington, city chief administrative officer, said he and the council members weren’t hearing anything new in the report but hoped for some more rationale from The Robinson Co. on the numbers.

“It’s going to cost us a little more money than we hoped,” Covington said of the Highlands library.

For the Highlands library project, The Robinson Co. feels the work should cost $28,000 less, so $912,000 instead of $940,000, Wang reported.

Wang mentioned that THA Architecture, the Highlands project architect, has told KCLS recently that its cost has already exceeded the contract by $120,000.

“It is clear that the project is more complex than typical design projects that The Robinson Co. used as basis of their conclusions,” said Wang.


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