Despite its $146 million price tag, including $29 million in construction cost overruns, the High Desert Detention Center in Adelanto sustained an undetermined degree of damage, likely in the neighborhood of $300,000, when a rare summer rainstorm caused flooding in the facility’s kitchen and laundry areas because of a faulty roof.
The defects in the roof persisted despite representations made by the county last year that the project had reached completion and was ready for occupancy in February 2014.
The High Desert experienced severe rain and thunder-storms on July 18, 2015, which continued for a 24-hour period. The rain and thunder-storms resulted in major flooding and other storm-related problems throughout the region. “Upon conclusion of the storm event, an inspection of the construction-related areas [at the detention center] indicated a significant amount of water damage had occurred in the kitchen and laundry facilities,” Carl R. Alban, the director of the county’s architectural and engineering division told the board of supervisors this week. “This damage was a direct result of the drainage of water from the new roofing to the existing deteriorated roofing that was under construction.”
Alban’s disclosure that the roof was yet being worked on, some 16 months after the county had declared to the state that it was completed and ready for occupancy further throws into question the problematic history of the project, which was steeped in scandal from the outset and plagued by mismanagement in its execution.
The county bought what had previously been known as Maranatha Prison, a 706-inmate capacity privately owned and run facility located on 9438 Commerce Way in Adelanto, from the Moreland Family Trust in April 2005. Shortly thereafter it was learned that former California Assemblyman Brett Granlund, who was serving as a lobbyist for the county, represented the Moreland Family Trust on the deal. After obtaining it, the county resolved to add 1,392 new beds to render it into the second largest capacity detention facility run by the county, behind the 3,347-bed West Valley Detention Facility in Rancho Cucamonga.
In March 2008 the board of supervisors approved the submittal of a proposal to the State Correction Standards Authority requesting available funding of up to $100,000,000 to cover 75 percent of the cost to make the expansion and undertake renovations to make it code compliant. Two months later the county was conditionally awarded the requested $100 million for the expansion, having achieved first ranking on the list of public entities to be conditionally awarded funds available under a state detention facility financing law, AB900. A string attached to the granting of the funding, that the facility be operational by February 1, 2014, would result in a rush to complete its various stages after the board of supervisors, in July 2010, gave conceptual approval to the project and assumed various obligations relating to it.
The county held a bidding competition that fall and in December 2010 awarded a $90,951,937 contract to Bellevue-Washington-based Lydig Construction as the low bidder, after making a finding that the bids received from S.J. Amorosa Construction Co., Inc. of Costa Mesa, California and Flintco of Folsom, California were non-responsive.
Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum, Incorporated was originally given a $4,466,000 contract to provide architectural service on the project.
Jacobs Engineering, formerly known as Carter & Burgess, was given a contract to serve as engineers on the undertaking.
The overall project cost at that time was put at $120,419,790, which included a ten percent contingency.
The construction bill on the project was originally slated at $90,951,937, but after a total of 29 change orders and contract amendments, the construction price alone zoomed to $120,419,790, just shy of $30 million more than it was originally projected to cost. Moreover, the total price tag on the project, including engineering, architectural, licensing and inspection costs, reached $145,451,910, which was $25.45 million more than the $120 million projected to be the project’s overall price, including the contingency.
The county exacerbated the circumstance, pressing for Lydig to complete the expansion by January 31, 2014, as it faced losing $100 million in state funding. This impatience on the county’s part led to Alban and other county officials prompting the board of supervisors to approve a series of hodge-podge, stopgap and improvisational change orders and up the payments to Lydig. A contingent of prisoners were present in the facility in February 2014 and photo opportunities were provided to the press to show off the county’s most recently “finished” capital improvement, even as construction crews were engaged on other portions of the complex. Indeed, in March 2014, billing on the 27th cost overrun on the project was received and ratified by the board of supervisors.
Only after the project was “done,” did county officials acknowledge problems with undertaking, when the board of supervisors on April 22, 2014 authorized legal action against Jacobs Engineering as well as and Hellmuth, Obata, & Kassabum, retaining the law firm of Allen Matkins Leck Gamble to represent it with an initial $250,000 retainer. In December 2014, it added another $200,000 to Allen Matkins Leck Gamble’s retainer. The actual filing of a suit was held in abeyance while Allen Matkins Leck Gamble and county representatives sought to negotiate with the two firms a settlement short of litigation that would be acceptable to the board of supervisors. After burning through $182,000 of that retainer, Allen Matkins Leck Gamble was making what was deemed insufficient progress toward having Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum and Jacobs acknowledge any responsibility for the overruns. In May 2015, the county sued the architecture firm and the engineering firm.
The unexpected rain this summer and the damage it did to the detention center sheds further discredit on the county department of architecture and engineering. In his report to the board of supervisors this week, Alban stated that the project was not yet completed in July of this year, sixteen months after representations were made that the project was finished and after the county’s and state’s taxpayers had spent $25.45 million in excess of the $90,951,937 initially allotted to finish the project.
Work on the facility’s Unit 1 had been completed prior to the rainstorm, Alban indicated. But other work was ongoing when the downpour ensued, he said.
In a report to the board of supervisors dated August 11, Alban stated, “In March 2015, at the High Desert Detention Center, work began on the replacement swamp coolers and roofing in existing Housing Unit 1 and the administration building. The work in Housing Unit 1 has been completed, and approximately half of the work has been completed in the administration building. The roof work over the kitchen and laundry areas was in progress and temporary roofing was in place adjacent to the new roofing,” Alban said, when the rain came, resulting in what he characterized as “a significant amount of water damage… in the kitchen and laundry facilities. This damage was a direct result of the drainage of water from the new roofing to the existing deteriorated roofing that was under construction.” In conjunction with the county’s risk management division, Alban said, American Technologies, Inc. was brought in to perform “emergency remediation work on July 23rd. It is the intent of A&E [architecture & engineering] to solicit a proposal from American Technologies, Inc for the repair of the damage thus returning the facility to its pre-damage condition.”
On August 11, Alban told the board of supervisors that some “repairs have been completed and the facility is back in operation,” though he said “plywood barriers have been installed to enable the kitchen and laundry to resume limited operations and to provide a moderate level of security. These barriers are temporary in nature and are not suited for long term exposure to the elevated moisture of the kitchen environment.” At Alban’s recommendation, the board authorized purchase orders, in a total amount not to exceed $300,000, for the emergency repairs.
This week, Alban told the board of supervisors, “Working with the county department of risk management, American Technologies, Inc. began the emergency remediation work on July 23rd. Following completion of the remediation work, American Technologies, Inc. began the repair-related construction the week of August 17. The repairs have been completed and the facility is back in full operation.
Alban said whatever amount of the $300,000 emergency authorization that has been paid to American Technologies, Inc. “will come from the 2015-16 Minor Capital Improvement Program budget, with potential reimbursement from the county’s insurance carriers.”
Alban accordingly recommended that the board of supervisors “terminate the finding originally made by the board that the rain damage created an emergency.” The board complied