Joint fire-police station behind schedule in NM
Around 15 firefighters from the city will be stationed at the new public safety complex upon completion
Las Cruces Sun-News
LAS CRUCES, N.M. — In east Las Cruces, a new joint fire and police station is taking shape off Sonoma Ranch Boulevard, though the roughly $14 million project is behind schedule.
At least a portion of the delay on the 35,000 square-feet building is because the city decided to expand the original construction plans to add a sally port, a pull-through garage that allows police officers to make sure arrestees are secured when getting in and out of police cruisers, city officials said.
The original project, called the East Mesa Public Safety Complex, was slated to be finished July 7. The addition of the sally port pushed that date back to Aug. 11, said Assistant City Manager Daniel Avila.
There are delays beyond that, though they haven't been settled upon by the city and contractor, White Sands Construction.
In all, the project is about 35 percent done, according to city officials.
Asked about the cause of the delay, Avila said the project is different from other construction because it's being built by the city of Las Cruces, so cannot be inspected by the city.
State inspectors with the New Mexico Construction Industries Division, a branch of the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Division, is carrying out the inspections.
"The contractor is claiming additional time is needed due to delays on approvals and inspections from the state," Avila said. "City staff informs me that the state is shorthanded, which unfortunately is delaying the project and causing it to be behind schedule. Consequently, the city is working with the contractor to modify the existing schedule to try to catch up and get close to the original completion date."
Continued Avila: "Also, the contractor may be extending work hours in an attempt to catch up."
An owner of White Sands Construction initially agreed to talk to the Sun-News about the issue, but after a meeting with city staff last week on the project, he said he planned to defer all questions about the project to the city.
The New Mexico Construction Industries Division couldn't be reached for comment Friday afternoon.
Exactly how many days the project is behind is something being discussed by city staff and White Sands Construction, Avila said. The specifics of the delay will be spelled out in what's known as a "change order" by the city with the contractor.
"They are still reviewing it and awaiting information from the contractor," he said.
In general, change orders can entail an addition or subtraction to construction plans, such as the addition of the sally port; a change in the construction schedule or a change in the cost of the project, city officials said.
The city broke ground on the project in late May 2015, according to Sun-News archives.
The structure will comprise two wings that meet in a broad V shape. The police building will be in the north wing; the city's Fire Station No. 8 will occupy the other. Tours of the construction site recently showed the foundation in place, with some walls standing on the north and south ends of the structure. A central column also is in place, where the building's elevator will be installed.
About two-thirds of the space will be for the police station, with one-third for the fire department, said Tomas Mendez, city architect assigned to the project. A basement-level room, which has been built, will serve as a physical fitness room, complete with women's and men's locker rooms. It also will house an IT room for the building.
LCPD plans to base its operations for the city's east side, which patrols east of Interstate 25, out of the new building. Officials have said it will help to free up space in the city's main police station on Picacho Avenue. Several specialty police units and the animal control and codes department also will move into the new building.
City Police Chief Jaime Montoya said, though it would be nice to move into the new facility earlier, he understands that construction projects do experience delays.
"We've got people eager to move into a new building," he said.
In addition to adding the sally port, Mendez said the city subtracted one component from the original construction plans: a canopy in the parking area. That's because the city is planning instead to install a photovoltaic array that will not only generate electricity for the building, but also will provide some shade for the parking lot.
A short access road — not yet officially named — onto the property has been paved.
So far, the quality of the work seems good, Mendez said.
"The progress is fine, other than being a little slower than we preferred," he said.
Work was moving forward last week on an area that will become a three-bay, fire truck garage. Mendez said there will be doors at both ends to allow fire trucks to enter and exit in both directions.
Dog kennels for LCPD canines will be constructed toward the north side.
Montoya said the city had a request seeking $50,000 from the Legislature to buy security cameras for the building's interior and exterior. And it looks like that funding was granted.
LCPD also will be seeking funding in the city's 2016-17 budget to pay for copy machines, computers and office equipment that will be needed in the new building.
"We're very excited to see walls going up," he said. "The majority of work has been done on the sub-floor and basement area. So, starting to see walls going up and some interior framing going up is starting to make it look like a facility."
When the new facility opens, Fire Chief Travis Brown said the fire department will create a two-battalion system, dividing the command structure similarly to what LCPD does with its east and west divisions. A newly created battalion chief position, which oversees shift personnel at multiple fire stations, will be assigned to the East Mesa Public Safety Complex. Now, there's one battalion chief overseeing the seven existing stations.
When the new facility opens, "we will have second battalion chief, and each will oversee four stations at that point," he said.
Brown said 15 personnel — five people over three shifts — will be stationed at the new fire station. A fire-training academy will start in early March, and about half of the graduates are expected to be assigned to the new facility.
Montoya said the building "looks great."
"It's going to be perfect," he said. "We need to have staff and resources on the east side of Las Cruces."
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