A-Building’s cost continues climbing

Lazaro Aleman
ECB Publishing, Inc.
Based on the advice of Clerk of Court Kirk Reams, the Jefferson County Commission is considering giving an architectural firm the goahead to draw up the final construction documents for the historic A-Building.
The idea is that the final construction documents, once completed, will be used to solicit bids and get a truer picture of the cost to complete the restoration project that has now been ongoing for more than 20 years.
Reams noted that the proposal from EMI architects, which has been handling the restoration project since day one, dated from July. He said that absent the requested documentation and bids, the projected cost for the
completion of the building remained mere “shots in the dark.” He said he was reluctant to seek a loan for a mere estimated cost, knowing the true cost could prove higher or lower. Reams said the architects' fees for drawing up the final construction documents were estimated to be $161,240, in 2018 dollars.
The work to be done, according to the memo from EMI, entails completion of the architectural, structural, mechanical, plumbing and electrical elements of the design, along with the miscellaneous security and other construction-related activities.
The cited amount does not include another $132,000 in EMI fees for the actual bidding and construction administration, also estimated in 2018 dollars.
The architects' estimated fees are based on a projected construction cost of between $3,951,000 and $4,829,000 to complete the restoration, again in 2018 dollars.
Reams offered that the $161,240, which was all he was requesting at present, could be paid from a specially designated fund whose monies come from traffic citations issued in the county.
Commission Chairwoman Betsy Barfield voiced concern that the fund currently didn't have the necessary amount, a point that Reams conceded. But, he qualified, the $161,240 didn't have to be paid in one amount, adding that the citations monthly generated a significant amount of money.
Commissioner Stephen Fulford wondered about the reasonableness of the architect's quoted fees. He said he wanted to contact a friend who was an architect to get the latter's views on whether the $161,240 was reasonable before proceeding.
Barfield voiced a second concern.
“I want to express my dismay about the west end of the building,” Barfield said, referring to its constant flooding. “It continues to be wet there. If we don't deal with this problem, it will continue until eternity. We want to take a good, hard look at this before we do anything more. Even with the generator and pump, the water keeps flowing.”
She ventured that for all anyone knew, a spring could be under the west end.
“You can't cap Mother Nature,” Barfield said.
She suggested that the board hold off on the project until the cause of the flooding could be determined.
The way it was left, the board agreed to await Fulford's findings on the reasonableness of the architects' fee. Meanwhile, at Commissioner Stephen Walker's suggestion, the board talked of shutting off the water to the building during a weekend to determine if a leaking pipe could be causing the flooding.
The A-Building’s restoration to date has cost nearly $4 million in grants and local contributions, with the work only half completed and unforeseen problems cropping up at every turn, raising the project's overall cost each time.
The restoration had its beginning in 1997, then under the auspices of the Jefferson County School Board.