In spite of the unexpected and unexplained abandonment of the project by the original construction contractor earlier this year, the new Signal Hill Police Department (SHPD) headquarters is close to completion. According to Signal Hill Deputy City Manager Charlie Honeycutt, police administration, officers and civilian employees will probably move into the new building in about three months.
The original contractor was Irvine-based FTR International, which began work on the project in November 2010. “They basically abandoned the job site in February of this year,” Honeycutt said. “We still do not know why.” He added that city officials have sent several letters and emails to the company’s offices. “There has been no response to any of our communications,” he said, adding that the company has apparently moved its headquarters to a new location, but city officials do not know where that is.
In spite of that, the City has not lost any money in the process. “We paid them about $4.5 million, which is half of the contract cost, but they had done much more than half of the construction work,” he said.
Honeycutt added that FTR had posted a bond, as required by state law, in case the company defaulted on the contract. “The bond acts as an insurance policy,” he explained, adding that once city officials had determined that FTR had defaulted, the City formally terminated the contract and contacted the bond company— Arch Insurance, based in Philadelphia. Soon after that, Arch Insurance brought in a new construction company, Kemp Brothers Construction, based in Sante Fe Springs, which restarted the work in May.
According to Honeycutt, the City of Signal Hill has about $4.6 million remaining in the police station construction project budget. Part of that amount will go to subcontractors who did work but were not paid by FTR. Most of the remainder will go to Kemp Brothers.
“Kemp Brothers, specializes in completing work begun by other companies,” Honeycutt noted. “Since May, they have been working at an expedited pace to get the construction finished.”
Honeycutt explained that FTR is a company that, under state guidelines, qualifies to construct essential-services facilities such as jails and emergency operations centers. “FTR completed all aspects of the construction that require that specialization,” he said. “The work now being done by Kemp Brothers does not fall under essential-services facilities construction.” Honeycutt added that, he, city staff, and Los Alamitos-based Simplus Management Company are serving as project managers.
Honeycutt noted that since May, solar panels have been installed, the main building has been completely enclosed, the windows have been installed, and much of the interior finish work has been done. “Right now, painters are actually painting walls; workers are preparing to do tile work in the restrooms and lobby areas; various crews are pulling electrical wire, installing the air conditioning and finishing the plumbing; doors are about to be hung; and we are approaching the finish line in this construction project,” Honeycutt said. “We expect the building to be what we call ‘substantially complete’ by mid-November, at which point we will start bringing in the furniture, communications equipment, the lockers and all the other stuff that staff will need to function in the new building.”
According to Honeycutt, the SHPD is scheduled to be fully operational in the new facility on Jan. 29, 2013.
He added that the City of Signal Hill’s Master Plan, approved by the City Council several years ago, called for the construction of a new police station and the demolition of the existing police station in order to make way for the construction of a new city library. “Now that the state has abolished redevelopment agencies and frozen our library bond money, demolition of the old police station is on hold,” he said. “For now it looks like the old facility will just remain vacant for a while.”
He explained that it is still possible that the City will be able to use the $8 million bond money for the construction of a new library, but in order to do that, the City will have to jump through several bureaucratic hoops. “The state is auditing everything we do,” he said. “We recently went up to Sacramento and met with the Department of Finance to explain our Civic Center Master Plan so they can better understand what we are trying to accomplish, and to show that the library plan was not a last-ditch effort on our part to keep our redevelopment money.”
The existing police station encompasses approximately 13,000 square feet. The new facilities encompass about 21,500 square feet in two separate buildings. “The main police station, which includes the emergency operations center and jail, contains 19,000 square feet,” Honeycutt said. “The second building, which will be used for evidence and property storage, contains 2,500 square feet.”
Honeycutt added that the City has tentatively set Jan. 19 as an “open house” day for the new facility. “On that day the public will be able to view the interior of the facility, including sections of it that will not be open to the public after it becomes operational,” he said. “We want the public to come out and see what a fantastic facility this is going to be.”
Signal Hill Police Chief Michael Langston agreed. “The new police facility and emergency operations center is going to be a great asset for the community on a regular basis and certainly during local emergencies,” he said. “The new technologies deployed within the station and the centralized location of the station will have a synergistic effect on public safety in Signal Hill