Wet start for new station

Tony Meza, right, checks rebar as a co-worker pours cement into

Construction slowed down by recent weather; project manager says
it won’t hinder final timeline
By Lori Stuenkel

Gilroy – Building a new police station during the recent wet weather hasn’t been easy.

Construction on the new 48,900-square-foot, $27.7 million home for the Gilroy Police Department broke ground in mid-September, and at least 14 months remain until it scheduled completion. But several days of rain last week and what’s being called a monster storm this weekend are putting a damper on the crew’s pace.

“Up until a few weeks ago, we were pretty much on schedule,” said Project Manager Scott Gilpatric, of Harris & Associates in Gilroy. “Right now, because of the several weeks of rain we’ve had, we’ve slowed down a bit, but I’m pretty confident we’ll be able to overcome that time.”

There is some flexibility in the construction timeline, with rainy days already built into the city’s contract with S.J. Amoroso Construction, Gilpatric said. Crews are doing what they can to keep the site as dry as possible – a necessity as masons with Joe Patania Masonry place cinder block footings around the perimeter of the building for the exterior walls.

“Mainly, it’s just trying to keep the water away from the building and the inside of the building pad by placing plastic sheeting, protecting the masonry block from getting wet so they can continue placing it,” Gilpatric said. Keeping things dry is a top priority right now because wet cinder block cannot bond to the mortar that adheres the bricks together.

“Sometimes, when the rain seeps in or creeps in from outside, the block – which is very porous and dry – soaks up that water and retains it,” Gilpatric said.

Workers have been using small blow torches to heat up and dry out the cinder block, a slow process. Right now, crews are working on the first of five sections that must be completed on the perimeter of the building before they will foot the interior walls and the jail area, so “it’s going to take a while,” Gilpatric said.

“We’re actually doing what we can, which is pretty limited by the weather right now, but we’re continuing our de-watering effort, which will allow the contractor to continue,” Gilpatric said.

The construction site at Hanna and Seventh streets is currently a jumble of the cinder block footings, cement and rebar. The future building’s elevator shaft, which will carry employees and visitors from the underground parking level to the main level has been dug and framed in concrete.

As construction moves forward, the outline of the underground parking structure will emerge visible first, with the perimeter walls scheduled for completion in two months.

Assistant Chief Lanny Brown meets with Gilpatric once a week to keep appraised of progress. For the next 10 weeks, though, Brown will be completing an intense training course run by the FBI, for police department command staff. In the meantime, Capt. Scot Smithee is keeping up-to-date on the project.

“We’re looking forward to it,” Smithee said. “But you try not to look too forward to something so far away.”

The city put the station out to bid, for the second time, last summer amid rising steel prices that threatened to skyrocket even more. Council approved Amoroso’s $22.4 million bid last August.

When the city put the station out to bid the first time in 2003, the lowest bid came in at $8 million more than expected: $26 million, when officials were expecting $18 million.

A redesign shaved $6 million off the price, but construction costs rose $2 million with the year delay. The total price tag now stands at $27.7 million, adding in soft costs such as engineering, contingency and project management.

Not quite five months into the project, Gilpatric said it is still within budget.

GPD construction timeline

Time period Project

January – March 2005 Placing masonry block

March – May 2005 Installing steel

Summer 2005 Framing and installing walls

Fall 2005 Installing drywall

Winter 2005 Installing hardware, interior work

March 2006 Completion

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