By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News
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The cost of building the new facility went up by nearly 23 percent, mainly due to requests from the city for stormwater and fencing improvements, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The agents will move from the Richard B. Anderson Federal Building in downtown Port Angeles to 110 Penn St., a sprawling, 19,000-square-foot remodeled building surrounded by a security fence and featuring a kennel, three dog runs, a 40-foot radio tower and a fitness center.
The Border Patrol contingent that covers Clallam and Jefferson counties outgrew its headquarters at 138 W. First St., agency spokesman Jeffrey Jones said.
Border Patrol staffing has increased from four agents in 2006 to 42 in February.
Michael Sangren, Corps of Engineers project manager, was driving to Port Angeles on Tuesday morning to conduct a three-day “final walk-through” of the project in preparation for building occupancy that could occur Thursday or a few days after that, he said in a telephone interview.
As of April 19, the contracted amount of $8 million for the gutting and renovation of the Penn Street building by Blackhawk Ventures LLC of San Antonio had increased to $9.8 million, according to a Corps of Engineers “change request/modification funding” form dated Friday and obtained by the Peninsula Daily News under a Freedom of Information Act request.
That does not include $2.1 million the Corps of Engineers, which is overseeing the project, paid Eagles Aerie 483 for the site in 2011, Sangren said.
It is also substantially more than the $5.7 million construction total Sangren cited March 11, 2011.
Sangren said Tuesday he couldn't explain the discrepancy but would not consider the difference between $8 million and
$9.8 million “an overage.”
As a remodel project, there were built-in unknowns in transforming the former Eagles building into a secure facility, he said.
“If we were just bulldozing bare-bones land, we would have a much better picture of what kind of costs we were going to run into,” he said.
“I don't think this is an exorbitant price.”
A planned chain-link fence topped by barbed wire was replaced with a black fence pointed outward at the top after the city of Port Angeles expressed concerns about the visual impact on the thickly residential-commercial area.
The fence cost increased by $283,790, the Corps of Engineers said.
The black fence now at the site “lends itself to be more pleasing than chain link with some wire on top,” city Planning Manager Sue Roberds said, citing the residents who live in the hilly area above the new facility and the heavy traffic that flows by in front of the facility on First Street near the city limit.
“There are quite a few folks above that look down from higher elevations that hope this will be a little more aesthetically pleasing for them.”
Additions also were made to improve stormwater retention, Roberds said.
“We reviewed the plans and asked them to be as creative as possible . . . with native plants and landscaping,” she said.
Site landscaping and the stormwater retention system cost an additional $549,128, according to the Corps of Engineers.
Sangren said 90 percent of the rainwater that falls on the heavily paved, 3.4-acre site will return to groundwater on the parcel.
An increase of $535,216 for the security system was the steepest hike.
The Corps of Engineers issued a call for solicitations of contracts that were due May 15 for items to furnish the new station.
The miscellaneous furnishings on the list include a self-cleaning oven, a coffee maker, two refrigerators, two DVD/Blu-ray players, 19 picture frames, an 8-foot-by-20-foot wall of mirrors and a mobile television stand for a TV screen of up to 64 inches.
The facility also includes two holding cells for people detained for suspected immigration violations before being transported for processing at the Tacoma Northwest Detention Center, run by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“They are all looking forward to the new facility,” Jones said, describing the station's estimated Thursday opening as a “beneficial occupancy date,” meaning the building will be occupied, though not a finished product.
The police-dog kennels still need to be built and the paving completed, Jones said.
The Army Corps' modification funding form listed 15 items that cost more than anticipated, the first of which was April 18, 2011, shortly after the contract was awarded, and the last of which was April 19, 2012.
According to the document, the original completion date was April 27, a target that was moved to Aug. 25 mostly because of changes in the contract, Sangren said.
“There is a plan for a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house after we are moved in,” said Jones, who estimated the date would be in late summer or early fall.
The group Stop the Checkpoints, which has opposed an increase in Border Patrol activity, is planning to protest the new station at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, group organizer Lois Danks of Port Angeles said Tuesday.
“It's a symbolic protest of the concept of militarizing the border,” she said.
“It's symbolic of the waste of money and militarization and policies in general.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at email@example.com.