Camas officials tackle aging city facilities

City will pay Seattle firm $115K to assess condition of 10 buildings

Faced with aging facilities that could require quite a bit of maintenance in the near future, Camas city officials have agreed to hire a Seattle firm to provide a detailed facilities assessment of 10 city structures totaling 162,424 square feet.

“The city’s existing buildings are aging and, unfortunately, the city has consistently deferred maintenance and capital improvements through the years,” Camas Public Works Operations Supervisor Denis Ryan told Camas City Council members and Mayor Ellen Burton in early September. “That has led to non-functioning systems and costly repairs that are anticipated to continue unless the city takes steps to get ahead of things.”

Ryan pointed to the HVAC system at Camas City Hall as an example of deferred maintenance that led to more costly repairs for the city.

“Four separate HVAC condenser units — three in the finance area — need to be replaced,” Ryan said. “The units are decades past their useful life, as is the rest of the system in City Hall. Of those four (condenser units), staff found out two of them were purposefully turned off about 10 years ago because they weren’t functioning and the other two, unfortunately, leaked on top of finance desks, files, etcetera.”

Ryan estimated it will now cost the city $40,000 to replace the units.

“We expect this to continue with other units as they reach the end of their life cycles,” Ryan said.

The city sent out a request for proposals in May to find an outside firm capable of assessing the facilities, including the buildings’ plumbing, electrical, HVAC and other complicated systems. The city received 13 proposals and found the best offer was for $115,166 from the Seattle-based Meng Analysis.

The city council approved the contract with Meng Analysis on Monday, Sept. 20.

At the council’s Sept. 7 workshop, City Councilman Steve Hogan said he hoped the facilities assessment would help city staff develop a capital improvement plan that would identify necessary maintenance projects in each of the city’s main facilities.

“(Then we can) keep knocking off those projects as we go,” Hogan said. “But on a parallel track here, so that we don’t just stop repairing things as they break. … Ideally, we would keep future, long-term improvements in mind as we’re making those short-term, emergency repairs.”

Camas Public Works Director Steve Wall agreed, and said city staff hoped to come up with a plan for the city’s facilities similar to Camas’ pavement preservation project, which takes care of preventative maintenance to avoid larger, more destructive — and much more expensive — problems in the future.

“We’re going to do preventative maintenance and hopefully extend the time a building or facility is in use — and prevent those major failures, where cost is going to be substantially more to fix those major failures,” Wall said.

Councilman Don Chaney said he’d been around “a long, long time,” and was discouraged but not surprised to hear that the two HVAC units in the city hall building had been shut down for 10 years.

“That’s not uncommon here. No excuse,” Chaney said. “My hope is that we’ll have a baseline for our facilities’ (needs) and … be more proactive.”

Asked to explain why the city would need to hire an outside firm for the facilities assessment, Ryan said Camas’ city staff “is very good at what (they) do, but there are so many complex pieces of these buildings and intricacies of HVAC, plumbing, electrical … we just don’t have the skillset.”

The city included $100,000 in its 2021-22 budget for the facilities assessment, so the city council will need to approve the extra $15,166 in the budget’s fall omnibus.

Ryan said the extra costs stemmed from the inclusion of the buildings located on the city’s wastewater treatment plant in the overall facilities assessment.

“WIth the inclusion of those buildings, the sewer utility will be used to support a portion of the additional funds,” Ryan stated in the staff report he sent to the city council for the Sept. 7 workshop.