On time, under budget

The Grand Junction Public Safety Center will house the 911 Regional Communication Center and Grand Junction Police Department and allow the Grand Junction Fire Department to utilize the existing police department building, which will be remodeled.

If ever there were a good time to be wrapping up a multimillion-dollar construction project, the time might be right now.

Take for example, a comparison in costs of the Riverside Parkway and the 29 Road overpass.

The overpass is about two-thirds complete and is expected to be finished by early December. Planning on that project occurred in 2008 and 2009 when costs of construction materials were spiraling downward. City and county officials estimated the project would cost $21.2 million. So, they were tickled when the winning bid in May 2010 came in at $19.5 million.

“From the city’s standpoint and from taxpayers’ standpoint, we got a lot of value from this project,” said Paul Jagim, the city’s project manager for the 29 Road overpass. The project is being built with city and county funds.

“You look around, and all these guys all have had good-paying jobs for the last year,” Jagim said. “It’s been a good impact for the community.”

Construction of the $110 million Riverside Parkway, on the other hand, was completed in three years, ending in 2007. Timing of that project, when costs of materials and labor were high, led to it costing double the city’s original estimate of $55 million.

Now, costs of construction materials though are inching back up, causing managers of the new Public Safety Center to hasten the timeline on the work.

The new police station and 911 center will occupy the vacant lot in the 500 block between Ute and Pitkin avenues.

The $35 million project includes remodeling the current police station, which will be used by Grand Junction Fire Department officials. The current fire station will be expanded to include sleeping quarters, a gym and an area for firefighters to separate contaminated gear. Construction should be complete by the summer of 2012.

Work already is being done to remodel Grand Junction Fire Station 1, instead of initial plans to wait a year on the remodel portion. The direction from City Hall to start work sooner on that project is an effort to get more people working and to save money by locking in prices of construction materials. For example, the prices of aluminum and drywall have increased 10 to 15 percent in the past three months, said Dave Hall, construction manager for Shaw Construction, the general contractor on the project.

Other materials, such as lumber and steel, have come in at all-time lows, he said.

“The city really reaped the benefits,” Hall said. “This a great time to be taking advantage of prices. Who knows? In three months the prices could go back down.”

As prices of construction materials start to trend upward, an influx of workers has caused more competition for jobs. Construction work was booming up until 2008, before the amounts of new projects started to nosedive.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers in construction and extraction fields in Grand Junction as of May 2010 earned a median wage of $19.42 an hour. Local labor experts say wages have fallen below those marks, with some construction companies offering $9 to $10 an hour.

Most of the costs for materials for renovating Stocker Stadium and Suplizio Field were locked in almost immediately after FCI Constructors secured the bid. The $8.3 million project will add a hospitality center, which can accommodate people with special needs, and a new press box.

A week after FCI was notified that it won the bid, the company locked in an order for steel and purchased all of the plastic PVC piping it would need, said Mark Litzen, project manager at FCI. That was done before the tsunami hit Japan in early March, after which the prices of those items went up.

Other products that will be needed on the project, such as asphalt, can’t be prepurchased. Asphalt prices are linked to oil prices.

Costs of construction materials have increased 8 percent overall this year, compared to last year, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

“In raw materials, like steel, you can buy it right away. There are a few things you get burned on,” Litzen said of purchasing materials. “It’s hard to keep up with it sometimes.”

Construction on the Stocker Stadium project should come in on budget and be completed before the start of the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series in May. A temporary press box has been installed at the site, and a scoreboard will be installed in time for the fall season’s first games on Aug. 29.

After the Stocker Stadium project is done, the city has no other major construction projects planned in the near future.


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