Looks like John Lattimer, the Chief Administrative Officer for Marion County, has been caught in a lie -- along with some members of the Salem City Council, who have been spreading the same falsehoods.
Here's what Lattimer said in a recent Statesman Journal letter to the editor, "Don't 'nickel and dime' police facility plan":
The community has a great example of what happens when buildings are re-designed to reduce costs. The Courthouse Square and Transit Mall is a perfect example of attempts to cut costs. There was a great amount of political heat on the decision makers at the time to reduce costs. Eventually, both the building and transit mall had to be re-engineered at great cost.
The Salem City Council should not make the same mistake.
I don't know whether Lattimer intentionally misrepresented the cause of the problems with Courthouse Square in downtown Salem to justify wasting money on an oversized and overpriced new police facility, or if he is just clueless about why Courthouse Square (built by Marion County and the Cherriots Transit Board) had to undergo extensive repairs after being built.
Before sharing what architect Geoffrey James, who chaired a Courthouse Square Task Force repair committee, has to say about Lattimer's letter, here's what Susan Kaltwasser said in a Facebook post. (I've corrected a few typos in both her post and James' messages):
John Lattimer should be ashamed of himself as Marion County CAO to so misrepresent what happened at the Courthouse Square! There are public records that clearly show that the problem was not due to cutting corners on the budget, BUT rather lack of oversight by the county and errors made by the construction contractors and engineers.
This is not opinion as Lattimer is giving, but fact based upon impartial investigation and court documents. This engineer made more mistakes in buildings in Salem projects (Salem Hospital parking structure).
The City Council is negligent in not questioning the consultants thus far and stating that they will trust the experts. Well experts can be wrong. Oversight is what is needed, NOT more money.
This lie is being promoted by those who want to fool the Salem public into thinking more money means a better building. They think that an expensive PR firm can "sell" the project to the voters. I hope that the voters will see through this.
I also hope that the voters throw these current politicians who are making these wrong and costly mistakes out in May. We need people who think for themselves and read the staff reports and vote on what is right for citizens and not just what lines theirs and other builder friends' pockets with taxpayers' hard earned money.
We need a police station. We can have a large, adequate and well built facility for $30 million. We do not need another expensive parking structure when one is just a block away.
And here's what Geoffrey James said in an online comment on Lattimer's letter to the editor:
The writer is incorrect. I served on both the Courthouse Square Task Force (and chaired a committee) and on the Blue Ribbon Police Facility Task Force.
My work on Courthouse Square started in 1986 with early site studies and conceptual design, for County and Transit. The building was constructed for $34M in 2000, with a perfectly adequate budget, i.e. certainly not built on the cheap.
The facts are that both the Salem Hospital Parking Garage and the Courthouse Square were designed by the same structural engineer, who made some serious design mistakes in the post-stressed flat slab concrete structure design and calculations, of both buildings.
Salem Health decided to fix their building. Marion County (the letter writer is county administrator) decided not to, because they insisted on staying on time and budget, i.e. no change orders. So that meant that I (as committee chair for the fix) had to spend hundreds of volunteer hours (10 years later) finding a way to repair the building for $20M, versus the $65M the Portland consultants had estimated.
Local volunteers were proven right. The expensive out-of-town consultants were proven wrong (by $40M) and the taxpayers won. Sounds familiar?
Chicago consultants recommend a $82M Police Facility, when we know that Eugene's new one was $17M. The bottom line is that Courthouse Square had an adequate budget of $34M. It was the engineering consultant, and the city's lack of an engineer reviewing the plans, that led to the $22.8M problem that we (locals) devised a fix for.
It would have cost a fraction of that if the county administrator had recommended a $3M? fix during construction. Beware of out-of-town consultants and their big cost estimates, and watch out for consultants' mistakes. Quality control (by city or county) is needed, not excessive budgets.
This fits with the "How did things go so wrong?" section of a blog post from the law firm that handled a legal battle about the Courthouse Square structural defects. Excerpts:
In their report, Golder found serious problems with the building's structural design, writing that it was inadequate; lacked sufficient detail and clarity; and was never subjected to peer-review before or during construction. Design revisions made during construction were also cited in the report as worsening the building's already-flawed structural design.
The report also blamed management and supervision errors for the poor construction practices which led to the building's structural and other defects...
The lack of experience in managing and overseeing construction projects similar in size and scope to the Courthouse Square project among County and Transit officials, the architect and the primary contractor were also cited in the report as contributing to the flawed construction.
Finally, the forensic engineering report, citing data from concrete strength tests it conducted during its investigation, concluded that the building's concrete elements were too weak.
Lastly, I asked Geoffrey James to respond to Lattimer's claim that cost-cutting was the cause of Courthouse Square's construction problems. Here's the message that he emailed back to me. It provides more detail than James' online comment.