Mission Viejo is Diving into the Marguerite Aquatic Complex Renovation
By Desi Joseph Kiss, MS, PE
On June 1, 2015 the Mission Viejo City Council agreed that the 43-year old Mission Viejo Aquatic Complex, used mostly by the Nadadores, needed renovation, and approved by 4-1 vote a total CIP budget of $7.7 million, for the design-build renovation and rehab project of the city owned facility, based on a study and needs assessment, dated February 2015, provided by Aquatic Design Group Inc. of Carlsbad, CA. Mayor Cathy Schlicht voted against it.
The Nadadores said they are committed to raising $1.37 million toward the renovations over 20 years. According to city staff the design phase will be completed in 13 months and construction implementation is scheduled to begin in September 2016 and is expected to take 1 1/2 years. According to City Manager Dennis Wilberg the project can be financed by the use $4.8 million in park development fees, which are collected from developers to mitigate the impact of new construction in Mission Viejo.
Opponents of the project say the city shouldn’t spend $1 million on a new state-of-the-art dive tower when the facilities aren’t open to the public full time. Apparently the Nadadores diving program serves fewer members – about 110 youths and adults – compared with the swimming program, with more than 650 members, and the fact that most of the divers don’t even live in Mission Viejo.
The plans to redesign the Marguerite Aquatics Complex, are moving forward again, thanks to a new 5-0 approval by the City Council on July 6, 2015, when the City Council unanimously approved a price tag of $598,500 for the design contract based on a qualified base selection and without a public bid process. Before voting, Mayor Cathy Schlicht mentioned a firm Jones & Mandhaven could provide the design for $450,000 and the construction for $1-1.5 million less, though it seemed to make no impact on the outcome, so she decided to vote to move the Project forward. The comment however made by the Mayor have raised serious areas of concern regarding this Project taking into account that the City already has a burden of approximately $20 million of unfunded liabilities.
The City Council vote to award a contract for the design and engineering services in an apparent “conflict of interest” to the same firm who has produced a deficient study and project cost estimate – Aquatic Design Group of Carlsbad, CA – without any public competitive bid process, in my view is irresponsible and harmful to us the residents and the taxpayers.
The renovation and rehab study of the Marguerite Aquatic Complex provided by the Aquatic Design Group Inc. in February 2015 was reviewed by the City of Mission Viejo staff, however due to apparent lack of professional and value engineering expertise, they have failed to identify the deficiencies of the study and various cost estimate pitfalls. For example the soils engineer fees were provided at 10 (ten) times the industry standards of $5-7,000.00 dollars for this type of work for a total of $70,000 and the construction of a dive tower to the tune of $1 Million, the advanced state of corrosion of the equipment and steel members and other utilities at the existing facility, just to name a few.
City staff’s recommendation to award a contract for the design and engineering services to Aquatic Design Group Inc without requests for proposals and a competitive public bid raises even more serious areas of concern about the competence of City staff, when design fees for a project of this magnitude, such as the existing Marguerite Aquatic Center renovation should be in the vicinity of approximately $400,000 based on common industry practice standards of a $6.9 Million renovation and rehab project of existing structures and facilities, and the fact that there are at least 3 other firms in Southern California who have the same or better credentials than Aquatic Design.
Why was the City Council not even interested in a competitive bid from at least 3 design firms that would bring the City of Mission Viejo and the taxpayers savings of approximately $200,000 just during the design phase? Such amount of money can be used for example: to improve the City’s traffic flow, build 1-2 much needed public restrooms at our City public parks that are used for sporting events (AYSO soccer, baseball, football and basketball) and or to make payments toward the City’s approximately $20 Million of unfunded liabilities, that I’m confident the media and City Council are well aware.
Moreover, it is very important to mention that on the Aquatic Design Group Inc. of Carlsbad, CA. June 26, 2015 contract proposal documents under Exclusion to Scope of Services the $70,000 Soils/Geothechnical report is excluded from their contract proposal and must be provided by the City or others that would bring the total design fee costs to approximately $668,500 not including reimbursable expenses, plus a 15 % mark up, that would also add to the total cost of the design phase of this project.
Furthermore, the last experience of a City conducted and monitored CIP project with the La Paws Park project, when the same procedure was used, (a sole contractor for all phases from conception to construction) resulted in a project with many field implementation problems, change orders and major cost overruns. The issue now on the table with the existing Aquatic Complex renovation and rehab project is that this is a much larger facility and project that requires high engineering expertise in various fields, with the probability of cost overruns, that already appear visible from the start of the project, with this staff recommendation for the design phase of the project.
During the discussion prior to the approval only council member Sachs questioned the lengthy design process of 13 months, the expected change orders, and the contract cost, while the Mayor placed into the record the letter from Jones and Mandhaven – Architecture & Engineering that was sent to her and Mayor Pro Tem Gregory Raths indicating the $450,000 design fee for the renovation project and $1 – 1.5 million less for the construction implementation cost. Council member Wendy Bucknum apparently had no interest in any cost savings and indicated that Acquatic Design has a great brochure with pictures.
Is the present city council fiscal conservative? The role council members is to serve the interest of the residents they represent, which includes establishing reasonable boundaries and time frames for expenditures and capital improvement projects. How is that served when a renovation design-build project of an existing facility is estimated lo last 2 1/2 years from design to construction implementation and when potential savings of $200,000 of taxpayer money were simply ignored from the start of the project?
Desi J. Kiss, M.S., P.E., is a Business Executive with over 35 years experience in engineering and in the field of design-build and project management of multi faced projects, and served as Engineering Faculty at California State University Fullerton, Civil and Mechanical Engineering Departments. Mr. Kiss obtained his Master Degree from CSUF and He can be reached at 949-458-9169.
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