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Council OKs $1 million more for police HQ

A cost overrun on the new Medford police headquarters was pared back to just shy of $1 million, but the City Council on Thursday worried it still may have to drop at least one of three fire stations from its plans.

"We're sorry we're going to have to sacrifice something," Councilor Chris Corcoran said. "This has been one of the most frustrating things we've had in the 6½ years I've been on the council."

The council was divided on whether to approve increasing the budget for the police station, which is already under construction at the corner of Ivy and 10th streets.

Five councilors voted to spend the proposed $23 million on the station and secure parking garage, but councilors Dick Gordon, Tim Jackle and Kevin Stine voted against it.

Earlier this month, councilors were confronted with a $1.6 million cost overrun. Following an outcry from the council and the public, Adroit Construction, Ogden Roemer Wilkinson Architecture and city officials worked to cut costs.

Among the 15 cost-cutting efforts was reducing a contractor contingency by $107,936, eliminating 36 duty lockers to save $44,352 and getting rid of floor coverings at stairs and landings, saving $6,478.

Councilors didn't appear to support other potential cost-cutting efforts, including saving $150,000 by not putting a protective coating on the upper deck of the parking garage. The city spent millions to repair the Middleford and Evergreen parking garages partly because an upper deck coating wasn't applied.

Many council members said that putting more money into the police headquarters will mean less for the fire stations, which face an even greater cost overrun. The council has put the construction of the three fire stations on hold until it can figure out whether it has the money to do all three.

"Basically, we're taking $950,000 away from the fire department," Gordon said.

He said he would like city staff to concentrate on bringing the police station and three fire stations in within the $32 million budget.

Bids for the fire stations came in at $14 million, $3.4 million over budget.

For both the police and fire stations, the cost overruns amounted to $5 million a month ago. An improved facade for the police building parking garage that would have cost almost $1 million more was also proposed, but that appears to be off the table. 

Councilor Tim Jackle said he'd like to put a portion of the police station construction on hold until closer to the end of the project to make sure there aren't more cost overruns.

He said overspending on the police station will leave less for the fire stations.

"I'm a little skeptical about building all three (fire stations) unless we're talking about Quonset huts," he said.

Mayor Gary Wheeler said, "I'm not in favor of mothballing a portion of the police station. Disappointing as it may be, we may not get three fire stations."

Wheeler said other projects in California and in Oregon are coming in well beyond budget projections as the construction industry continues to heat up. As a result, he said, he supported going forward with the increased police station project.

One potential source of money could be the $1.5 million in contingencies on the police project. If not all the contingency funds are needed, then the project's overrun could be reduced.

Councilor Daniel Bunn said he thinks the city may have to seek new bids on each of the fire stations in hopes of reducing the $3.4 million shortfall. 

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.