Future of crisis center at risk

An expected cost overrun in a major county facility project may also threaten the construction of a planned crisis stabilization and detox center in Oak Harbor.

Western Washington’s skyrocketing construction market is being blamed for an expected $1.3-million cost overrun on construction of a new Camano annex building.

Island County went out to bid for the project, and the only viable one received came in significantly higher than what the county had budgeted for construction. Both of the two local applicants also used the same subcontractor.

“The subcontractor market, I think is what hit us,” Facilities Management Director Larry Van Horn told commissioners Wednesday at a work session.

Commissioner Jill Johnson expressed concern over the apparent lack of subcontractors and the rising costs of construction and how that might affect major public facility projects being built at the same time.

The state Legislature allocated $4 million for the crisis center project; the money might need to be used within a certain time frame, Johnson said.

“We need to know what money is flexible and what money isn’t,” Johnson said.

To fund the Camano project, the board discussed with the county treasurer the possibility of taking out a loan from the state or doing an inter-fund loan. Commissioners said they will decide on how to move forward or if they will go forward with the facility project at the Tuesday regular meeting.

Commissioner Helen Price Johnson said she’s worried the costs of building materials and labor are going to continue to rise and if the county decides to do another bidding process, it may end up paying even more.

However, Johnson said she was concerned about the “tone” government sets with contractors when it allows for budget overruns.

Van Horn said the county has already spent approximately $330,000 on the Camano project in architectural fees, permitting and some preliminary work.

The crisis center would be a 10-bed facility meant to offer short-term mental and behavioral health services.

Island County purchased the land for the center for $1.1 million, with the rest of the seven-acre parcel meant for supportive housing.

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