Council examines condition of public buildings

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By John Larson
jlarson@tacomaweekly.com

 

With its large portfolio of buildings, the City of Tacoma has much to keep up with in terms of maintenance. Tacoma City Council heard an update on the topic during the July 2 study session from Budget Director Katie Johnston and Justin Davis, manager of the Facilities Management Division within the Public Works Department.

Council members recently took a tour of municipally owned buildings. The tour did not include Tacoma Dome or the Streets Operations building. Johnston noted that the Dome has undergone a major renovation, but it still needs $10 million worth of upgrades to the heating and ventilation system. Also, bathrooms on the concourse level were left untouched. She noted that 80 percent of people who attend events use these restrooms.

Tacoma Fire Department has 25 facilities, with an average age of 67 years. Observed deficiencies are $14.5 million for buildings and $3.8 million for infrastructure.

The assessment examined five Public Works buildings, with an average age of 73. Observed deficiencies are $5.9 million for buildings and $670,000 for infrastructure.

It examined three municipal service facilities, with an average age of 71. Observed deficiencies are $13.4 million for buildings and $10,000 for infrastructure.

Five neighborhood and community service facilities were assessed. They have observed deficiencies of $3 million for buildings and $250,000 for infrastructure.

Eight police stations were examined, with an average age of 20. They have observed deficiencies of $8 million for buildings and $500,000 for infrastructure.

Four facilities owned by the city but maintained by Metro Parks were assessed, including People’s Community Center and Old Town Dock. Observed deficiencies are $400,000 for buildings and $100,000 for infrastructure.

The eight library branches have an average age of 65. They have $2.57 million in observed deficiencies in buildings, with another $300,000 in infrastructure.

Councilmember Ryan Mello noted the dilemma of wanting to build new structures while needing to maintain existing ones. He noted some at some fire stations; trucks will not fit inside as the buildings opened back in the horse and buggy era.

Councilmember Catherine Ushka noted the ability of firefighters to adapt to the buildings they have to operate out of.

Councilmember Conor McCarthy discussed whether it makes more sense to renovate the Street Operations building or to build a new one. He mentioned a 100-acre parcel near the Tacoma Public Utilities building as a potential future home for this. “Each year the facilities get worse and worse.” He also mentioned an effort several years ago to explore building a new city hall. He wondered whether it makes sense to spend much on improving the current home of municipal government if it will relocate to a new structure in the future.

The council will examine the topic again on July 23 during the noon study session.

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