Camas officials tackle aging city facilities

Facing aging facilities that could require quite a bit of maintenance in the near future, Camas city officials have agreed to hire a Seattle firm to provide a detailed assessment of the facilities of 10 city structures totaling 162,424 square feet. .

“The city’s existing buildings are aging, and unfortunately the city has consistently delayed maintenance and capital improvements over the years,” Camas Public Works Operations Supervisor Denis Ryan told Camas City Council members and Mayor Ellen Burton in early September. “That has led to systems malfunctioning and expensive repairs that are expected to continue unless the city takes steps to stay ahead of the curve.”

Ryan pointed to the HVAC system at Camas City Hall as an example of deferred maintenance leading to more expensive repairs for the city.

“Four individual HVAC condensing units—three in the financial sector—need to be replaced,” Ryan said. “The units are decades past their useful life, as is the rest of the system in City Hall. Of those four (condenser units), the staff found out that two had been purposely shut down about 10 years ago because they were not functioning and the other two unfortunately seemed on top of financial bureaus, files, and so on.”

Ryan estimated it will now cost the city $40,000 to replace the units.

“We expect this to continue with other units as they reach the end of their life cycles,” Ryan said.

The city sent a request for proposals in May to find an outside company capable of assessing the facilities, including the buildings’ plumbing, electrical, HVAC and other complicated systems. The city received 13 proposals and found the best bid for $115,166 from Seattle-based Meng Analysis.

The city council approved the contract with Meng Analysis on Monday, September 20.

Speaking at the council workshop on Sept. 7, city councilor Steve Hogan said he hoped the facility assessment would help city staff develop a capital improvement plan that would identify necessary maintenance projects in each of the city’s key facilities.

“(Then we can) keep turning down those projects,” Hogan said. “But here on a parallel track, so that we don’t just stop repairing when they break. … Ideally, we’d keep long-term future improvements in mind as we make those short-term emergency repairs.

Steve Wall, Camas’ director of public works, agreed, saying city officials hoped to come up with a plan for the city’s amenities, similar to Camas’s pavement preservation project, that provides preventative maintenance to prevent larger, more destructive — and much more more expensive – to avoid problems in the future.

“We’re going to do preventative maintenance and hopefully extend the time a building or facility is in use — and avoid those major outages, where the cost will be significantly higher to fix those major outages,” Wall said.

Councilor Don Chaney said he had been there “a long, long time” and was disheartened but not surprised to learn that the two HVAC units in the City Hall building had been shut down for 10 years.

“That’s not unusual here. No excuse,” Chaney said. “I hope we have a baseline for the (needs) of our facilities and… be more proactive.”

Asked to explain why the city should hire an outside company to assess the facilities, Ryan said that Camas city staff are “very good at what (they) do, but there are so many complex pieces of these buildings and fine tricks of HVAC, plumbing, electrical… we just don’t have the skills.”

The city has included $100,000 in its 2021-22 budget for the amenities assessment, so the city council must approve the additional $15,166 in the fall budget omnibus.

Ryan said the additional costs came from including the buildings on the city’s wastewater treatment plant in the overall rating of the facilities.

“With the incorporation of those buildings, the sewerage utility will be used to support some of the additional funds,” Ryan said in the staff report he sent to the city council for the Sept. 7 workshop.

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