City officials said inflation added about $800,000 to the cost of planned renovations to the Upper Arlington Police Division headquarters and the District Attorney’s Office.
When Upper Arlington officials finalized the 2022 budget last fall, it was expected to cost approximately $2.1 million to remodel the two spaces at the city’s Municipal Services Center, 3600 Tremont Road.
On February 23, the city received a bid from Elford Inc. to complete the work for approximately $3.3 million and a bid from Setterlin Building Co. for $3.4 million.
An April 11 staffing report by Jackie Thiel, the city’s assistant manager, and Brian Mastin, the city’s facilities manager, said the increase in costs was primarily due to “volatile materials and labor markets.”
On April 18, Upper Arlington City Council unanimously approved an approximately $2.9 million contract with Elford for the project. It included a $208,711 reduction over Elford’s original because the company offers multiple rebates: one for $46,208 because the UAPD and prosecutor’s office modernization will be done concurrently, and another for $89,763 because floors be patched for utility work instead of being replaced with new underbodies.
The city government also elected to delay the replacement of the MSC’s exterior windows to the 2023-24 budget cycle, reducing the contract by approximately $175,700.
Prior to council approval, City Manager Steve Schoeny recommended the contract go ahead despite the increased cost over initial estimates.
“People thought the COVID impact was going to hit the hardware store like a hurricane,” Schoeny said. “So a temporary shock to the system, a spike in prices and things would collapse.
“What has changed is that it has been persistent inflation and inflation has gotten quite extreme,” he said. “When we talk to people, we don’t have the feeling that prices are going to go down again.”
In addition to fears that construction costs could continue to rise, the April 11 state report said the renovations will improve the MSC’s overall security.
During the April 11 council discussion, Council members Kathy Adams, Michaela Burriss, John Kulewicz and Jim Lynch expressed concern about the rising cost of the proposed project.
Lynch said he supports “the merits” of the project but fears the increased prices could cause additional problems as Upper Arlington tries to match its roughly $55 million share of building a community center at Kingsdale Shopping Center.
“The heartburn for me is just the cost overruns,” Lynch said. “In the back of my mind, all I can think of is the community center. I want to make that happen, but I’ll have to think seriously about it over the next week.”
Treasury director Brent Lewis said the city is “not running out of money,” and Schoeny said the $800,000 increase for the renovation project would not affect the community center project.
Police Chief Steve Farmer said it was becoming increasingly competitive to hire police officers and civilian employees and suggested a modernized headquarters would help the UAPD keep up with other departments.
“You want people to come into work feeling positive and valued,” Farmer said. “On the (the UAPD) side of the building … it’s desolate.”
After touring the police department’s existing premises after the council meeting, Kulewicz and Lynch said they would be more supportive of the renovations.
Kulewicz said he had seen better police facilities during his trips to Africa and India, and Lynch called the UAPD’s current offices “embarrassing”.
The renovation project is scheduled to begin later this year.
While the work is being carried out, the UAPD’s senior staff, detectives, civilian administrators, records clerks and forensic analysts will be relocated from Police Headquarters to the former Upper Arlington Schools District Office at 1950 N. Mallway Drive and to the District Attorney’s Office within the MSC.