Opinion

The numbers don’t add up for K2 machine shop

By JACK STEWART

For The Beachcomber

The Beachcomber’s coverage (April 1) of the King County Library System board meeting focused almost entirely on the opinion survey. There was only one small line in that coverage which pointed in the right and relevant direction: “the condition of the K2 machine shop building.” 

There are arguments pro and con about moving the library down the road to K2; there are no good arguments for housing our library in the K2 machine shop. 

That building is a tear-down. To call it a “remodel” is an abuse of language. The flat wooden roof has fungus growing out of it in various places. The beams carrying that roof are obviously jury-rigged and would have to be replaced with steel or glu-lam beams. The concrete floor is at several different elevations and would have to be redone. (And what is under that floor? Old, leaking fuel or chemical tanks?) The walls are concrete block and would have to be reinforced with steel in order to withstand the shock of an earthquake.

What’s left? What exactly are we “remodeling”? You needn’t take my word for this. Examine the building yourself. And consider that in 2005, while K2 was still using the building, King County’s own Department of Development and Environmental Services declared the building unsafe and said there was extensive cracking from previous earthquakes.

It is well known that because of the unknowns and unpredictables of remodels, you must plan for greater cost overruns on remodels than on new construction. Yet KCLS plans to give the same contingency percentage for all three options.

It is interesting that, according to KCLS plans, a brand new building of 10,000 square feet will cost $365 per square foot, whereas a remodel of the 10,000-square-foot K2 machine shop will cost only $257 per square foot.

Think about it. Many of you have done remodels on your own homes. It costs you a lot to remove what you don’t want before you can begin to rebuild what you do want. Foot for foot, all other things being equal, remodels cost more than new construction. And remember, we are not talking about the remodel of a sound structure, we’re talking about trying to remodel a teardown. (The KCLS budget for the K2 machine shop does not include a figure for the costs of disposing of demolished building materials.)

Meanwhile, our current library building is of recent construction, sound and beautiful. An addition to an existing sound structure should not cost as much per square foot as “remodeling” the K2 machine shop. And according to the KCLS director, our library is already half again as large for the size of our community as, on average, the other King County libraries are. Moreover, when KCLS is advising communities about siting and building new libraries, it points to our current library is an outstanding model. 

In short, the library we now have is a silk purse, and we’re being offered a remodeled pig’s ear. And the numbers don’t add up.

 

— Jack Stewart is an Island carpenter.

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