Forks Public Works Garage is $1.8 million over Budget

Forks Township Supervisors express outrage over the costs of the new public works garage Thursday and wonder whether construction could be shut down.


's public works garage, now under construction, is $1.8 million over budget, township supervisors reported at their meeting Thursday night.

Finance manager Jim Farley informed the board that the garage, which would centralize public works under one roof – the department currently uses four buildings around the township – said the final projected cost for the building is $4.8 million.

The project had started $1 million over budget because the was $4.75 million, but the township had only budgeted $3.7 million.

But with solicitor fees, plus architectural, engineering and miscellaneous costs, the total will hit about $5.5 million, Farley said.

"At this time, we want to make it known to the public that we have a $1.8 million shortfall," Supervisors Chairman Erik Chuss told the 10 people in the audience. "We need to identify any means of funding to make up for the shortfall."

That enraged new supervisor John O'Neil.

"To miss a figure by nearly $2 million is totally unacceptable," he said. "We were told $3.7 million and it comes in at $5.5 million? We're doing our taxpayers a big injustice."

Supervisor Robert Egolf, who along with Chuss voted against the project, said, "When I think about that building, I don't feel too comfortable."

Supervisors Vice Chairman Dan Martyak wondered whether the project could be shut down.

"I believe we can come up with an alternative plan," Martyak said. "If we can't shut it down, then how do we pay for this problem?"

Chuss said that it's too late to halt construction since all contracts have been signed. Solicitor Karl Kline agreed.

"We were committed once we signed the contracts," Chuss said. "Stopping and restarting could make the cost even higher. It's going to be a beautiful building. The cost is just excessive. But it would be a risk to stop."

After the meeting, Supervisor David Billings, who voted for the project, stated that he had made the best decision he could with the information he had.

"I approved it for $4.8 million, knowing that we might have to borrow $1 million," he said. "Now, I would have voted ‘no.’ It's way too much money and very unfortunate."

What do you think about the cost of Forks Township’s projects? Tell us in comments.

Carrie Bachman March 16, 2012 at 12:44 PM
ridiculous. scrap this project, pay whatever fees are necessary to get out of the contracts, and chalk it up to experience. what's the problem with housing public works in 4 separate buildings (unless you're renting them)? this money could go toward much more urgent current and future projects. with the massive population boom in the past 10 years, we're going to need to finance updated roads, schools, and emergency equipment. we also badly need a pool and dog park - i'm tired of driving to palmer and nazareth for these 2 things when that money and land could be used for them! please use your heads!!! i think you should ask the township what they want via a survey - someone could stand at the entrances to giant/weis and ask us what WE think we need to use that $ and land for, since we're paying for it.
Rob Leiser March 16, 2012 at 12:46 PM
This was supposed to be a Green Building so the Supervisors could feel better about themselves. The only thing Green is the amount of Money being poured into a Mushroom farm. In the end the energy costs to keep this building Mold free is going to exceed what a conventional building would use at 4 times the construction cost of a conventional building. Instead of building something that big and that complicated, we should have a building to meet our current needs and add to it when needed. The Public Works Building should have been located in an Industrial area where Heavy Truck Traffic will not disturb the residential Neighborhood in the middle of the night.
Steph Corby March 16, 2012 at 01:57 PM
What components make this a green building? If the capital investment includes things such as solar or wind power, reclaimed water solutions, etc. that will save on operating costs over the current locations, it still may be a worthwhile investment in spite of the lofty overage. As a project manager, I have seen very few big projects stay on budget, especially ones that involve newer technologies. Id like to hear more information before making any judgments.
KarenF March 16, 2012 at 02:02 PM
no, the only "green" component is a grass roof. LOL
Molly March 16, 2012 at 04:04 PM
Contracts can be broken. Amendments can be made. This project needs to be shut down. I'm not an attorney, but I'm guessing that the costs involved in shutting this project down are far less than $1.8 MILLION. This is ridiculous. It should have NEVER been approved. NEVER. There are ONLY two people in Forks who wanted this building. Maybe they can put up the $ to fund the difference? Doubt it. So now its time to shut it down.
Dave Schleich March 16, 2012 at 05:27 PM
As much as I'd like to have this project shut down, since it's literally in my back yard (100 ft off my property line), I think it's too late. The cost to back out of the contracts and undo the work they've already done could possibly be absorbed, but then they'd need to start at square one with designs for another new building, which honestly I do feel they need. (just not so extravagant) Honestly, does anyone know if there's anything legally that can be done at this point? I'm all ears. Oh, and Michele, I agree with you 100%. The 2 Supervisors who pushed and pushed for this "legacy" should pay for the overage since they didn't feel a new "regular" DPW was good enough for Forks!! They wanted an award winning building instead, regardless of the cost.
Rob Leiser March 16, 2012 at 06:25 PM
Steph, Karen Yes the Green Roof made it a Green Building. The Science is that it is cheaper to heat and cool because you are using feet of Ground as insulation. Question 1 is why do we need to heat and cool storage? These underground buildings have been built since the 60’s. The problems with this type of construction is well known. They work best when they are built into a South facing sloped lot. This one is not. They tend to be damp an moldy not the best conditions to store equipment. The cost of keeping the humidity in check and the air fresh will be expensive. This type of construction is pushed where there is more money then brains. More times then not award winning engineering turns out to be failures
Brett Bonfanti March 16, 2012 at 09:13 PM
3 Supervisors Howell, Billings, and Gioia voted in favor.
Brett Bonfanti March 16, 2012 at 09:33 PM
I urge all of you who have commented to attend BOS meetings. The reason this was passed is because the citizens of Forks Township did not come out and show their dislike for the project. If you are able, attend BOS meetings and have your voice heard; otherwise, your silence is your acceptance.
Molly March 17, 2012 at 12:26 AM
I know that Brett, but thanks pointing that out. Howell and Gioia backed the project from the beginning. Billings only voted in favor after much convincing that this project would be "good" for our township.
Molly March 17, 2012 at 12:42 AM
If only it were that easy Brett. No one living within a block of this project was silent. I live within walking distance of this hole in the ground. I know others here do as well. I know that the people living in my neighborhood have shown their dislike for this project since it was first mentioned. They have talked to the supervisors about it until the cows came home (pun intended). Their "show of dislike" went no where. It fell on deaf ears. This is one of the many reasons the people of Forks voted Martyak and O'Neil on the board - because they listen. They know that the people living up against this hole in the ground never wanted it there, 100 feet from their house. They both know that our township cannot afford this project. They too spoke up in those meetings to "show their dislike". So now they're left with fixing this mess. If Howell, Gioia (and Billings) had listened to the people they served, there would be a nice man on a John Deere running that field today. Instead, we get to watch dirt get pushed up against property lines.
Dave Schleich March 17, 2012 at 01:16 AM
I for one attended as many of those meetings as possible with a growing family, but as Michele said, it fell of deaf ears. I don't think it would have mattered if that board room was full, it was going to be built one way or another. I just can't believe nobody on that board had the foresight to know a building of this nature would cost this much. I'm certainly no expert in the construction field, but told the board during the Architect's initial presentation this project would cost approx. $5 million when all was said and done versus $3.7 million. In my opinion Kimmel and Bogrette should be held partially accountable for this as mess also. I mean common, a Township says they have a budget of $3.7 million, and you give them a building that's nearly 50% over budget.
Jim English March 17, 2012 at 05:11 AM
Everyone, it is never too late to stop this madness disguised as a Public Works garage. I alone spoke out against this project at the last BOS meeting to shut this project down now, or at the very minimum to find out the cost to cancel the project. My suggestion was rejected by BOS Chairman Eric Chuss, who told me that this may have feasible in January but not now as it was too far along. Mr. Chuss had the power in January to make a motion to stop this insane spending but didn't...I wonder why he didn't exhibit an ounce of leadership then if now he is so concerned about the cost: everyone, even me, has heard the figure approaching $6 million (remember that $5.5 million is the best projection case right now) at that point. Nonetheless, Mr. Chuss stated the cancellation charges could be as much as $2 million (probably an exaggerated figure as cancellation fees are typically ~ 10% in construction + $600,000 spent to date = more like $1.2 million) to which I challenged that if you ate $2 million and could put up a less extravagant functional building for $2 million your were still $2 million under the $6 million projection. This is just common sense and simple arithmetic.
Jim English March 17, 2012 at 05:20 AM
A functional and cosmetically acceptable pole barn type structure would suffice for the intended use as a Public Works garage and you probably could get that built for $50 per square foot x 23000 square feet = $1,115,000. If you even double this figure for concrete work, utilities, and other finishes to complete the building (a stretch), you are at $2,230,000 for a more cost effective solution, which added to the $2 million cancellation fees (probably an exaggerated estimate) is $4,230,000 or approximately a half-million dollars over the $3.7 million dollar building that Supervisors Chuss and Egoff voted for or a half-million less than what Supervisor Billings said he was okay with. I urge everyone to organize against this board and voice opposition as if you don't, you most likely will have a tax increase to pay for this monument to excess. It really doesn’t matter if a Supervisor voted “for” or “against” the Public Works building: what matters is what actions are taken now!!! If the BOS fails to listen to the taxpayers, I suggest the public look to remove the offending Supervisors, either via election or other more expedient means. Please contact me 610-737-4700 or jimboandjeno@coy-english.com if you are interested in coming to the next meeting.
Brett Bonfanti March 17, 2012 at 01:59 PM
I agree that much of the responsibility for this unwanted project goes to the three Supervisors who voted for it. Also, it is so obvious that our former Supervisors did not listen and that Martyak and O'Neil do. However, I would have to disagree in that I think the power of a full room at a public forum is much stronger. I think that Supervisor Billings would have been especially persuadable on this particular topic; his vote of "nay" would have stopped it.
Jim English March 17, 2012 at 03:18 PM
Whether a Supervisor voted "yes" or "no" for this building is immaterial now. Chuss brags to have voted "no" yet at the last BOS meeting he states that there was an opportunity to shut down the project "very early this year" but the goes on to say by the time the new BOS was in place it was too late...NEWSFLASH to Mr. Chuss: the new board was convened on January 3rd, 2012. How much earlier in the year did you require? New Years Eve perhaps? Sounds like its simply an excuse for lack of leadership. By then the cost over runs were suspected and in some cases known. Chuss chose to do nothing when at the January 3rd meeting he had the votes to stop work on the building. I question Mr. Chuss' sincerity when he cast his initial "no" vote as he knew this building had enough favorable votes, including Mr. Billings', to move forward but now refers to the building in such glowing terms as "beautiful" and "very nice". I find both Chuss and Billings to be disingenuous with their comments.
Carrie Bachman March 22, 2012 at 11:26 AM
for those unaware, BOS meetings are on the 1st and 3rd Thursdays of every month at 730 pm at the community center. http://my.calendars.net/forks_calendar/
Periscope September 18, 2012 at 11:49 PM
Brett is right. We needed the garage but not this one. Where were all of you when these matters were discussed two years before the first spade hit the ground. Howell and Gioia had their minds made up all the time since inception. It was Billings that tipped the scale and he's still on the board. Now Billings said that if he had known what he knows now he would not have approved it. Even Chuss said the same thing. This construction could have been tabled on their first meeting in January and a new design worked out that cost less. So why wasn't it? I think they all wanted it secretly but afraid to say so with a vote. It is easier now to complain about it than to have done something about it. So those of us who wanted something else just have to live with it. Long and short of it is that you must go to meetings and speak up,


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