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Last-minute details swamp new police, fire building

Daily Planet Staff Report
Wednesday October 11, 2000

Workers were busily hauling boxes of office furniture into Berkeley’s new police and fire headquarters Tuesday, while the city and building contractor haggle over who is responsible for three pages of last-minute details. 

Those items include tweaking the computerized air-conditioning system, installing a sink in a break room and construction finish work, according to John Rosenbrock, public safety building project manager. 

“It’s a matter of – this needs to be caulked, we have to repaint this wall and fix this crack,” Rosenbrock said.  

Rosenbrock won’t say how much the items on what he calls the “punchlist” will cost the city because it’s not clear if the contractor, Foster City-based S.J. Amoroso, will pay for them. Already, Rosenbrock said S.J. Amoroso refused to pay for the sink leaving the city to foot its $1,000 bill. 

“It’s not a big cost,” he said, adding that most of the last-minute details will be cleared up within a month.  

S.J. Amoroso President Paul Mason said he is sitting down with city officials tomorrow to work out how the last remaining items will be completed.  

“Most of the items are getting resolved. But we still need to sit down and talk about it,” Mason said. “We have a very good relationship with (the city). There are no problems with this one.” 

However, more than 100 city police and fire workers are already packing their coffee mugs and office plants to begin moving into the building over the next two weekends.  

Rosenbrock maintains that the air conditioning – which he says varies in temperature by four degrees in some spots – is currently being worked on. The rest of the details, he said, are just that – details. 

“The building is ready. If the heating and air conditioning system were not ready then we would not be moving in,” he said. “There’s always items at the end of a construction project.” 

When the building is completed, it will be more than eight years after voters passed Measure G – a $55 million bond to pay for earthquake and fire safety measures, including the retrofit of the police and fire headquarters. 

Instead of paying for the retrofit of the aging buildings – a $12.5 million project – city officials asked a judge to allow the new public safety building to replace them.  

That original price tag has since ballooned to $18.5 million. Permits, inspections, environmental studies and administrative costs account for about $4 million of the price tag, Rosenbrock said, with the remaining $14.5 going to the contractor. S.J. Amoroso, who began the project in 1998.  

The city paid for the increase with a $3.5 million state seismic retrofit grant and $1.7 million interest earned on Measure G funds between 1992 and 1998.  

Critics, however, say the city’s financing strategy for the new public safety building is questionable. One neighborhood activist points to the $200,000 the city spent on a competition which produced designs that no one in the city wanted.  

“They do things that don’t make sense – that you or I or no one else would do,” he said, asking that his name not be used in this story.  

The new public safety building on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and Addison Street will replace both the Hall of Justice and the fire administration buildings on McKinley Street. City officials plan to demolish the two 1930s-era buildings and replace them with a 124 space parking lot. 

Demolition of the old buildings has also been delayed by neighborhood opposition to a 170-foot police communications tower next to the new building. Neighbors say the tower is obtrusive and hurts property values and have asked city officials to either move it or break it up into smaller and less noticeable pieces.  

Demolition and parking lot construction is considered Phase II of the public safety building project, Rosenbrock said. Moving the police tower is not included in $1.5 million Phase II budget, he added.