May 282014

By Tammy Gray

High winds have made it difficult, but construction on Navajo County’s new $4.9 million public works complex remains ahead of schedule.

“The winds are plaguing construction,” Public Works Director Homero Vela said. “We’re still ahead of schedule, but the winds are slowing things down.”

High winds last Thursday forced workers off the roof, and sent those laboring on the interior scrambling to batten down unsecured materials and partially installed framing.

County Engineer Bill Bess noted that the majority of construction activity is no longer visible from the roadway, so it appears to have slowed down, but the situation is just the opposite. Workers are framing the interior walls, installing plumbing and electrical systems, and making preparations for extending utilities from the existing complex across the highway.

Extending those utilities will open the surrounding area up to further development, according to Bess. The City of Holbrook owns much of the adjacent property, which is currently designated as an industrial park. Utilities such as electricity and natural gas being brought in by the county will reduce the cost for any new development to extend the lines.

The new complex is expected to be completed no later than November, but according to Vela, it could possibly open sooner.

Vela noted that the move will consolidate public works functions and will make the old public works administrative building available for use as a health clinic. He pointed out that consolidation will create efficiencies within the department. For example, by locating the auto and heavy machine shops in the same building, staff members will be able to assist each other as needed to even out the workload and move vehicles in and out faster, as well as share tools and supplies to reduce costs.

“We’re not reducing workforce, but we are combining the teams and I think we will see efficiencies,” he said. “They can help each other, sharing equipment and time.”

The new shop will also have several features that will reduce work time, such as overhead cranes, a mechanic’s pit and drive-through bays. The welding shop is also attached to the mechanic shop to improve efficiency.

Included in the complex is a large conference room that will serve as the county’s emergency operations center (EOC). Vela explained that the public works department will use the room under normal circumstances, but it has been set up specifically for EOC operations in the event of an emergency, including a storage area for necessary equipment and large monitors that can instantly display maps and other necessary information.

“The way it is now, if they ask to see a map we have to run to the office and get a hard copy,” he noted. “With this system, one of our GIS technicians can pull up the information they want right there.”

Vela explained that now that the exterior portions of the buildings are up, and work has started on the interior and utilities, he is confident that work will be completed on time and on budget. He noted that the contractor, Haydon Construction, has agreed to a “guaranteed maximum” contract. Under the agreement, the total cost cannot exceed $4.9 million. If it does, the contractor must absorb the additional costs.

“It allows the contractor to make more decisions with regards to spending and it stops the problems with change orders. It makes us more partners in this project,” Vela said.