To my neighbors and friends in Manzanita,
Greetings. My name is Steve Nuttall, and I am one of your elected Manzanita City Councilors. I am also your neighbor and friend. I have made a personal decision to reach out and provide information regarding the effort by some in our community suggesting the old elementary school on the Underhill Property site can be salvaged and save us millions of taxpayer dollars. It cannot. I feel comfortable making that statement as I have significant experience and education in construction and development. Early in my career, I was certified by the State of Oregon as a building plans examiner, focusing on the approval of fire and life safety features. I was appointed by Governor Gary Locke to two-terms as a member of the Washington State Building Code Council before retiring. I was responsible for the fire and life-safety features of our U.S. Embassies, Consulates, and other various U.S. properties around the world, including Russia, Saudi Arabia, Europe, Africa, South America, etc. I spent many years as senior management overseeing a large municipal government development services program. During those years, I have both reviewed and approved millions of square feet of commercial construction, both new construction and remodel projects. I feel very comfortable suggesting why we, as responsible stewards of our community, cannot remodel the former elementary school.
During the past several months I have watched with increasing concern information being disseminated in the community about remodeling. I am also aware that recent documents delivered door to door include, among other things, the suggestion that remodeling the old elementary school and Quonset hut would be much cheaper than building new.
In addition, there is some suggestion in the document that the Quonset hut could be utilized as a public assembly rather than the storage facility that it currently represents. As a long-time code official, I know that a change in the use of the building is likely to trigger a requirement to bring the portion being remodeled up to current code. In other words, changing it from a storage facility to a building used for public assembly. For the Quonset hut, this would be an expensive and daunting task. That is why the council decided the best use for the Quonset hut would be for storage. Remodeling the existing school will result in costs comparable, and potentially exceeding, the cost of new construction. Based on discussions with local and regional licensed architects, along with my own experience, this cost is real! And here is why. The need to structurally rebuild the school must be added to the remodeling cost to create a building that could attempt to function as a city hall. Remodeling costs, when added to the needed structural rebuild, are very close to the $500 per square foot for new construction. And what does that give us? A 70-year old building of dubious condition that will never realize the same efficiencies, energy savings, and lifespan that a newly constructed building will provide. And to the suggestion we would fill the landfill? I am absolutely committed to salvaging what we can of the old building and reusing and repurposing those materials. It is the Manzanita way! I disagree factually with the material that has been distributed. As a steward of your city dollars, the idea of remodeling the old school building is not fiscally sound and not something I can therefore support. Here are a few other things that concern me:
1. The Police department space is cut in half in the handout. Chief Eric Harth visited several other jurisdictions that have recently built or remodeled. The Chief met with the Jim Fanjoy, the local architect who did our initial program plan and with Scott Steele, the architect who did the preliminary design plan. The space is based on those discussions and the council agreed it was both acceptable and appropriate. It will serve our needs into the future.
2. The handout suggests waiting three years to begin to take construction bids. That would put the building completion at least five years out. It is not fair to keep our city employees in their current conditions for that long. This process has been going on since 2007. The need is apparent. The time is now! 3. The handout says the community room will cost $1.8 M based on a $500 per sf cost. The new community space cannot be estimated as a stand-alone cost. A kitchen costs more than a restroom, office space more than storage. As Steele said, the preliminary design shows two buildings, police and city administration, surrounding an open space (with a roof). It will serve all of us as a multi-function room for community events, emergency preparedness area, council, planning commission, court, and a variety of other uses. It is a good investment. 4. The remodeling option was not “lost in the debate”. It was presented to the council as one of ten options. The council studied and discussed it in an open workshop and went the extra step to get a second engineering report just to make sure that we are correct to not consider the remodel as the best option for the citizens of Manzanita. I have personally spent hours and hours reviewing the remodel concept – it is not the fiscally sound option that some would have you believe.
In the end, your vote is your own. But please, as you fill out your ballot, do not be fooled by the suggestion that we can somehow save millions of dollars attempting to save an aging, badly deteriorated building that offers little in terms of value as a new city facility.
By moving forward now, we can take advantage of historically low bond rates – saving us all tax dollars! I will end by saying that I will do everything in my power to approach this project like I have always done throughout my career. We will be judicious with tax dollars. We will look for savings whenever possible. We will always keep the best interest of our citizens in mind. I truly believe this is the right time.
Let’s move forward together!
Thank you for listening. Please reach out with questions. My private email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to use it.
And now the required disclosure… By council rules and procedures, the information above is my opinion and not necessarily the opinion of the City or any other Council members.