In this photo I shot on Sunday, library patrons can be seen entering the library from the center of the bridge, while others stop and watch the river for salmon. Flotillas of rafts and geese can be seen cruising down the river. KCLS wants to close this library entrance and put the library entrance on the south parking lot– adding to the costs and making the north parking lot less convenient. This brand-new and unrequested change is one of several bad assumptions and errors that form the basis of a letter KCLS sent to Renton citizens, wrongly stating that Renton’s previous estimates for the library were incorrect.
Some readers have asked about the letter that KCLS recently sent to Renton residents challenging the city’s official cost estimates for the Cedar River Library remodel. In this letter, Library Director Bill Ptacek asserts that Renton officials underestimated the costs of the remodel, and he claims that a study by the Miller Hull architecture firm shows the actual costs will be 13.1 million instead of the city-estimated 10.1 million dollars. (I have attached the letter here)
There are several critical flaws in Mr. Ptacek’s letter and analysis, and readers should continue to respect and use the City of Renton’s official published cost figures for the comparison of the library options. The City’s numbers were prepared by an excellent estimating firm that has accurately predicted costs for five thousand public buildings, including King County Libraries. In addition these city estimates were prepared in a deliberate, careful, unbiased, public process with well-vetted assumptions, and provide a direct apples-to-apples comparison between the two sites. The cost of the Cedar River Library remodel is 10.1 million for a 22,000 square foot building, vs the cost of a new library at the Piazza for 9.3 million for a 15,000 square foot building.
Flaws with the KCLS estimates:
With regard to the recently released KCLS letter, the first thing to note is that KCLS’s Miller-Hull study (linked here) actually predicts only 8.1 million dollars in hard costs of the library, including labor, materials, 15% contingencies and 5 % cost escalations. The other 5.0 million dollars is a summation of additional costs that was created by KCLS and never shared with the public– I only have it because of a freedom of information request that was served on KCLS (click here to see it). I’ll discuss each of these two estimate components separately.
The 8.1 million in hard costs:
Miller-Hull estimated 8.1 million dollars in hard costs, about 1.4 million more than the City’s estimate of around 6.7 million. If one wades through the details of both studies, the difference can be largely traced to two major contributors, both of which appear to be more appropriately handled in the City of Renton (Robinson Company ) estimate. These differences are that the City’s estimate assumed that the front entry of the library would remain on the bridge in the current location. In my opinion, this is an excellent assumption, since it was the designer’s original plan for library patrons to walk out over the water to enter the library, it makes excellent use of parking lots on both the north and south sides of the library, and it keeps the library entrance well-connected to the playground. Furthermore, we have never publicly discussed moving this entrance, and voters would reasonably assume it is in the same place. The KCLS estimate, on the other hand, makes a brand-new assumption that the entrance of the library will be moved to the south end of the building to directly face the south parking lot. They recommend this because they feel patrons won’t want to walk the 75-foot distance of half of the bridge to enter the library. This recommendation is ironic, as it is contrary to the KCLS position that users of a new library at the Piazza would have no objections to walking two or three blocks and up stairs in a parking garage. Without the assumption of relocating the entrance, much of the interior reconfiguration costs of the library drop in line with the city estimate.
The other big contributor to the difference between Renton’s and KCLS’s estimates is the floor reinforcement. The City estimates assume that we double the capacity of the floors across the span of the library, from their current 60-65 pounds per square foot, to 125 pounds per square foot, as was first agreed to with KCLS (and is the current load-bearing capability under our book stacks above land.) This would be more than ample to give KCLS flexibility with book stacks, and would in fact be strong enough to accommodate most any non-industrial use (see seismic report here) But for some reason, in the recent KCLS estimate, they have included the costs of reinforcing the floors even further, up to 150 lb per square foot– 250 % higher than today’s floor strength. This exceeds code, and it exceeds their needs. Without these two big cost contributors, which are both faulty assumptions from KCLS and not desired by Renton taxpayers, the Miller-Hull and Robinson estimates are not much different.
The 5.0 million in additional KCLS estimated costs:
When Miller-Hull completed their 8.1 million dollar estimate, they specifically included construction contingencies of 15%, and escalations of 5% right in their estimates. However, KCLS added these numbers AGAIN to their estimate, clearly “double-dipping” on this expensive line-item. This adds 1.3 million to their estimate which is completely unjustified or fabricated.
Above: KCLS adds 15 % construction contingency into the estimate a second time, breaking it into 10% unanticipated “work orders” plus a 5 % contingency– the same 15% that Miller Hull Architects already included. (except the dollars are EVEN HIGHER because it is compounded as a contingency on a contingency on a contingency)
In addition, KCLS added hundreds of thousands in utility and traffic mitigation costs that would be required with a new building, but not a remodel with the same use.
KCLS also appears to have added the $60,000 they paid for the Miller-Hull study, and perhaps even the $8000 they spent sending the pre-election letter to Renton residents– these appear to add up the the $68,000 “feasibility study” shown in the spreadsheet. Renton citizens appear to be getting charged for KCLS pre-election study/literature in this line item from page 2 of the KCLS spreadsheet.
Most of the other line-items in KCLS estimates are generally okay, but all get scaled from the difference in the building cost of 6.7 million and 8.1 million, which was based on faulty KCLS assumptions.
In Summary, the three million dollar difference between Renton’s and KCLS’s estimates is:
1.3 M- Moving library entrance away from river and making floors stronger than 2012 code
1.3 M- KCLS double-dipping (charging the architect-recommended contingency 15 % TWICE)
0.2 M- Applying non-applicable traffic/utility mitigation fees (not for remodel)
0.13 M- Percent-based cost numbers that are scaled up, due to all of the errors above
0.07 M- KCLS charging Renton taxpayers for feasibility study and letter (not our costs)
Sadly, KCLS has been found guilty of misleading the public before. Click here for the PDC report. They have also had trouble staying within the law in managing their projects (click here for the state auditor’s report). The city of Renton has not had such difficulties with the PDC or State Auditors office. So the bottom line is, trust the numbers from the City of Renton (in the official voters pamphlet), not those sent out in the KCLS letter.