Inflation, it appears, continues to bedevil plans for large public projects in Boulder City.
Last month, the City Council got an update on the plans to replace the aging municipal pool and were told that in just one year, since the last estimate had been given, the projected costs had risen 36%.
It appears the same phenomenon may be at play with proposals for a second fire station. Except in this case, the projected costs did not rise by 36% in a year. They more than doubled in just a few months.
Speaking to the council as part of his annual report at their last meeting on Sept. 12, Fire Chief William Gray laid out the entire situation.
“We put it out to bid and we didn’t get a bite because it was a design/build, so we put it out again and still didn’t,” he reported. Gray said that with no bids, the department reached out to Showcase Contracting, a Henderson-based construction firm specializing in projects where they are both the designer and the builder and they agreed to do the job.
Gray said that things appeared to be on track.
“All the way through June, during the design process, they were optimistic they would be on budget and on time,” he said. “And then in July, our $1.6 million budget came back as maybe $1.9 million. We were able to figure that out. And then, like three weeks later, it came in at $3.6 million. We can’t figure that out.”
Referring to an earlier part of the meeting in which councilmember Sherri Jorgensen talked about the need to be creative with limited resources, Gray continued, “So, Councilwoman Jorgensen talked earlier about being creative and that is what we are trying to do right now. Potentially remodeling the facility or picking a different piece of land, just looking at all of those options. And then we will go out to bid again as just a build because it has already been designed.”
He noted that almost a million dollars of the total projected cost was just to put in utility infrastructure.
As he called up a picture of the drawings for the planned substation, Gray said, “There are some pictures of what it would have been,” noting that the pictures had been put into the annual report prior to the department having received the latest cost estimates. “It could still be this, we just don’t know.”
Proposed in response to a 2021 Community Risk Assessment that showed gaps in response capabilities based on the geographical location of the city’s only fire station on Elm Street, a second fire station was part of future plans for the department by the summer of 2022. The location at the corner of Nevada Way and Quartzite Road was recommended for approval by the Planning Commission in October of last year and unanimously approved by the City Council in its last meeting of 2022.
As recently as March of this year, everything appeared to be on track with Gray telling the Boulder City Review that, “It’s all ready to go. We just need the City Council to approve the funds,” he said at that time, adding that he anticipated construction being complete by year’s end.
Boulder City may be the prototypical small town, but in terms of land area, it is actually pretty large at 208 square miles. Gray noted that the area made for challenges in terms of response time.
“The national standard for travel time is you should be within four minutes of a fire station,” he said noting that only about half of the residents of Boulder City are close enough to the lone fire station to meet that standard. The addition of a second fire station would increase the number of residents within four minutes of a fire station from the less than 7,000 currently to closer to 12,000.
Funding for the approved substation was slated to come from the $10 million in unrestricted funds that Boulder City was allocated as a result of the Covid-era stimulus spending package known as ARPA — the American Rescue Plan Act, passed in early 2021. The substation was the second largest expense that was slated to come from that funding pool, surpassed only by the more than $3 million slated to redesign and rebuild the irrigation system at the municipal golf course.