Los Altos City Council Moves Forward With New Emergency Facility Plans | New
Los Altos City Council last week finalized a design option for a new emergency operations center, intended to serve as a communications hub during major disasters. The action came as amateur radio operators cited significant cost overruns and project delays.
At its July 13 meeting, the board approved Option C for the new EOC, one of two options initially approved by the board in April. A second choice, Option D, depended on a federal grant that did not materialize. The EOC would house amateur radio operators and other emergency personnel.
Council agreed to allocate an additional $ 132,000 to Jeff Katz Architecture for design work beyond the scope of the original contract, at a cost of $ 290,000, which was approved in 2018. City staff indicated that $ 88,000 already paid to the architect from the original contract the current cost of $ 220,000 of option C.
Replacing the current EOC of the city’s municipal service center, the 1,763 square foot building would be located behind the police station. Option C comes with a budget of over $ 2.6 million for construction – which is expected to begin in mid-2022.
Despite the lack of federal grants, the board still had the choice of going with Option D designs, which allowed for a larger facility at a higher cost, but that option would have depended on another source of funding. Option D would have created additional space at the EOC for the Police Department’s Information Technology Unit. The IT division is currently operating from a trailer at the rear of the station where the new EOC will be traveling.
“No one answered that question,” Los Altos Police Chief Andy Galea said when asked where the IT department would be moving.
Council member Jonathan Weinberg, after meeting with Galea and interim city manager Brad Kilger, initially proposed going with options C and D.
“While I don’t like the numbers we see, the numbers are justified, and moving forward is the way to go. We don’t want to be foolish and crazy,” Weinberg said, noting that taking care of IT now means less funding needed later, when the city finally calls on the community to build a new police station.
Highlighting the flooding problems in the basement of the police station, where the 911 communications equipment is located, Weinberg warned that the equipment failure “would put citizens at risk.”
“At some point the IT division will need a new facility and we need to remove the equipment from the existing police station to faithfully maintain the city’s emergency communications and servers,” said Jim Sandoval, director. engineering services.
But board member Sally Meadows, after asking about the chances of getting a computer installation grant, said she was in favor of option C only. Weinberg and Mayor Neysa Fligor, initially in favor of both options, joined Meadows in voting for “C” to move the project forward. Vice Mayor Anita Enander also voted for “C” and council member Lynette Lee Eng abstained.
The new allocation raised objections from residents questioning project delays and increased funding. City officials cited increased costs due to modifications requested by ham operators, council and the Santa Clara County Fire Department, which required an overhaul of the fire lane. But longtime ham operator Art Whipple said the city did not consult the hams until late in the process.
Speaking on behalf of a group of fellow hobbyists at the July 13 board meeting, Whipple pointed to a 76% cost overrun which represents a total design cost of $ 510,000 – $ 94,000 spent on designs that the city no longer uses. In addition, he noted that until April, the city was planning real construction starting this summer.
“City staff have been working on the design of a simple (less than) 1,800 square foot building with a single toilet and small kitchen since 2019,” Whipple told the Town Crier. “The delays and cost overruns were not caused by the hams or the firefighters.”
Sandoval said several changes in the direction of the project played a role in the delays, including a directive from the council to explore a solar generator, which turned out to be unworkable. There was also a discussion on integrating the EOC into the new police station.
“We have had a series of iterative changes in the design as the needs change,” said Sandoval. “We’re sort of going back to zero in the design direction. “
According to city staff, Option C is funding additional design that includes land layout revisions and other “engineering disciplines,” in addition to the design of a retractable antenna / tower system. or fixed for radio amateurs.
Whipple noted that the design changes between a February 2020 plan and Option C are “very minor,” with the north wall of the planned facility pushed back 3.8 feet.
“There are no complications in the utilities, kitchen or bathroom, just simple office space,” Whipple said. “These changes should not have resulted in the abandonment of $ 94,000 of design work – are these changes worth an additional $ 132,000?”