After falling behind schedule by more than a year, the Fire Station 12 project in north Long Beach is getting back on track through a takeover agreement between the City and a surety-bond company, which has put a new general contractor on the job.
For the past three years, work by the original contractor, Gonzales Construction in Tarzana, has been on-and-off, and the City has twice declared the contractor in default of its contract with the City, according to City officials.
The project, which broke ground in 2010 after nearly a decade of planning by community activists and city officials, involves replacing an existing antiquated 3,800-square-foot fire station converted out of a home on Gundry Street with a state-of-the-art station at Orange Avenue and Artesia Boulevard alongside a new emergency-resource center.
The nearly $8-million project is one of many that had been funded by the now-shuttered Long Beach Redevelopment Agency (RDA), which went out of business last year after the State officially abolished redevelopment. Remaining redevelopment projects and bond obligations are now being controlled by the Long Beach City Council, which opted to act as the successor agency to the former Long Beach RDA.
Despite delays, the City struggled to continue working with the original contractor through formal mediations and meetings in an attempt to finish the project in a “timely and cost-effective manner,” according to city staff. However, construction continued to be delayed.
Subsequently, Gonzales filed a lawsuit against the successor agency in June 2012, “alleging breach of contract, among various other causes of action,” according to a staff report. However, the successor agency officially terminated its contract with Gonzales in November after the City was made aware that the Contractors State License Board of California had suspended the company’s contractor license.
“They fell behind schedule,” said Long Beach Deputy City Attorney Linda Trang. “They were working on it, but at a snail’s pace… [And] there were a lot of issues with the project, and various other reasons…”
During its meeting on Monday, Jan. 7, the oversight board to the successor agency officially approved having Great American Insurance Company take over the completion of the project and immediately bring a new contractor on board. Trang said Toby N. Hayward, Inc., based in Monrovia, is now the new contractor for the project that a new completion date of Aug. 31.
Although the oversight board has approved the takeover agreement, the action, which involves a change order of $1.5 million in added contingency costs for the project to be completed, still has to be reviewed and approved by the California State Department of Finance, according to Robert Zur Schmiede, deputy director for the Long Beach Development Services Department. He said the new costs are on top of the original $6.5-million contract price.
Zur Schmiede said the approval also involves a settlement agreement that “settles all claims of all parties between the city, the surety and the former contractor.” The surety company did have the option to rebid the project, which would have taken “significant additional time,” he said, however, the surety agreed not to do that since the company had relationships with various contractors to expedite the process.
Long Beach Fire Chief Mike DuRee said the new facility, which could be completed earlier than the Aug. 31 deadline, will provide added benefits in north Long Beach that currently don’t exist. “Although it’s been a long process to get to this point… there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “It will be the finest facility we have in the city of Long Beach.”
The goal of the project, DuRee said, is to move from the existing Fire Station 12, which has been located in the middle of a residential neighborhood for decades and was not designed to handle the station’s current workforce, fire engines and equipment. Moving out of the residential area will provide for “better response times,” he said, and the new station will become a “public-safety focal point” in a main business corridor.
The new facilities will include a 12,511-square-foot fire station, which will have: three fire-engine bays; a 5,183-square-foot emergency-resource center; and a communications tower. DuRee said the facilities will also feature appropriate gender separation for firefighters and paramedics, a community meeting room and high-speed smart technology for regional communications and video conferencing.