Consensus on construction and funding come into view for police station

Feb 27, 2018

Credit Image Courtesy of the City of Homer

The Homer City Council is another step closer to consensus on a new police station. Disagreements over site selection, design and funding the project have prevented it from moving forward for the last few years, but the council has been holding work sessions on those issues. It chose a site, basic design and a price point last month. On Monday, it tackled the construction process and gave city staff guidance on funding the project.

The main point of discussion Monday was how to move forward with the roughly $7.5 million design and construction process as the city nears a tentative vote on funding $5 million of the project via a bond.

The city is already under a general contractor-construction management, or a GCCM, contract with design firm Stantec and builder Cornerstone. City Manager Katie Koester said the idea behind the GCCM model is to prevent any costly miscommunications during construction.

“General contractor-construction management is that you enter into a contract with a firm that is capable of taking the project from first idea to last nail and the concept behind that is that you’re working with a cohesive group,” Koester explained. “You don’t have any disconnect between the design team and the construction team.”

Council members discussed whether to stick with the current contract or withdraw and put the design and construction process out to bid.

Design teams are chosen based upon qualifications through both the GCCM and traditional construction process, but the actual construction of the building would be put out to bid if the city chose the traditional route. That’s something council member Heath Smith argued for.

“A bid process could be a huge benefit, especially considering where the economy is right now in Alaska. We’ve already seen some really great prices come out of the bid process in things that we have done,” he said. “We can point to some of the roads that have been repaved and how that came in way under budget. I think it’s a really competitive market right now.”

Council member Rachel Lord pushed back, arguing that the traditional process comes with costly changes to the design during construction due to having separate design and construction teams.

“That you can have that lowest bid come in, but change orders just happen and they are expensive and costly in a timeline,” Lord said. “That’s one of the benefits of a GCCM project is that you aren’t seeing the number of change orders because you have everybody on board through the process.”

The council eventually agreed to stick with the current contract and GCCM model.

Funding was also on the agenda. The city already has $2.5 million saved for the project and plans on asking voters to approve a $5 million bond to pay for the rest either this summer or this fall.

Koester gave council members several options on how the city could ask residents to pay for that bond, ranging from a seasonal sales tax to year-round sales tax and property tax increases.

But she also told council members to keep potential tax increases the borough is  discussing, such as a bed tax and a sales tax increase, in mind.

If either of those options went to the ballot and passed, it would mean more revenue for the city. But the borough also plans to ask voters to approve one of those proposals this fall, possibly complicating the city’s hope for passing its bond.

Council members indicated which funding methods they were interested in by placing 10 stickers a piece next to the options they felt should be explored.

A seasonal six-month sales tax was the most popular followed by a year-round sales tax increase. Pulling from the city’s general fund and using potential revenue from a bed tax, if it passed, tied for third.

City staff will explore the more popular options and return to the council before it makes its official decision on funding, and the council will pick up the discussion at its next work session on March 27.