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Flaws mar city's new offices

The city plans to serve refreshments, cut a ribbon and dedicate its new office building Monday, but the timing may be a bit unfortunate.

The cheery event will coincide with some less-than-stirring news about the building's new heating, air-conditioning and ventilation system. According to a memo this week, it "appears to be substantially deficient."

The memo from Acting Assistant City Manager Bill Baird cited other problems, including:

Continued leaks on the building's third floor.

Concrete slabs on the building's facade with exposed steel reinforcing bars peeking through the surface. If not covered, the bars can rust, expand and cause the concrete to crumble over time.

Some "30 concerns" from the police officials about their new building, which is part of the same project. The concerns could lead to changes in the project and cost increases.

A glitch in budgeting for the project. The architect, Dean Rowe, is entitled to be reimbursed for about $30,000 in expenses. But no one set aside any money for that expense in the budget.

Because of the problems, Baird has refused to sign documents from the architect that state the office building at 100 S Myrtle Ave. is complete.

Baird said the air-conditioning system is causing serious condensation on the building's windows. He also said some rooms are too warm and some too cold.

It appears the system lacks devices that tell the air-conditioning system when there is too much moisture in the air, Baird said. Rowe has suggested ways to correct the problem, but Baird said he suspects they won't meet the city's codes.

The leaks have been a continuing problem since the office building opened about three months ago. They first were reported after a morning of heavy rain in early May. At the time, a city official said the problem had been found and was being corrected.

But Baird said Friday there are several more leaks to fix.

"They're not all gone," he said.

Among the many concerns with the police building: Lights in the holding cells that can't be controlled from outside the cells. Without the change, Baird said, officers would not be able to see prisoners when entering a darkened cell.

He said he has asked for cost estimates to address this and other problems.

"These are items that are necessary to police operations and officer safety," Baird wrote in his memo, "but apparently had been omitted from the scope of the project."

In a previous memo about problems with the project, Baird noted that police officials were not fully consulted during the construction process. He has since moved to correct that.

Baird was appointed recently to oversee the $24-million office and police headquarters complex as well as the completion of the $14-million Harborview Center. He replaced Bill Baker, who resigned after questions were raised about the Harborview Center's construction costs.

Asked whether these were normal glitches that occur in the course of opening any new building, Baird said it depends.

Some problems are minor, like the third-floor shower drain that leaks into a hallway in the office building. The shower is for city employees.

Other problems are not acceptable, like the heating and air-conditioning system, he said. "That's a very significant concern."

It's also a matter of perspective, he said. Problems that might seem minor to the architect or contractor can be serious for the "owner," in this case, the city.

Monday's dedication ceremony will be from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. It will include tours of the office building.