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IOWA CITY

Supervisors scrutinize Johnson County Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center costs

Officials look to trim expenses before facility goes to bid

Johnson County Board of Supervisors Chair Lisa Green-Douglass speaks during a 2016 forum in Iowa City. (The The Gazette)
Johnson County Board of Supervisors Chair Lisa Green-Douglass speaks during a 2016 forum in Iowa City. (The The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — The Johnson County Board of Supervisors expressed an interest Wednesday in lowering the cost of the Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center, which is expected to be under construction this fall.

The question that remained after the work session is just how those cuts will be made.

According to an estimate for the center, capital costs — which include land acquisition, construction, design services, furniture, fixtures and equipment and other start up expenses — are thought to be $10,032,442. Capital funding for the center currently stands at $8,544,141.

The supervisors would like to see the cost of the project cut by $138,000, according to board Chair Lisa Green-Douglass.

“Maybe there’s a way to squeeze a little more out of this,” said Supervisor Rod Sullivan. “We’re spending a lot of money here and we’re being as frugal as we can.”

Once completed, the Behavioral Health Access Center will offer sobering and crisis stabilization units, along with a low-barrier homeless shelter. The center is meant to serve as an alternative to the emergency room or jail for those in the community dealing with mental health or substance abuse issues.

Matt Miller, project manager for the center, presented the board Wednesday with a number of possible cuts, including eliminating shell space for future expansion or storage space; lowering building envelope performance, like the resistance to air, water, heat, light and noise transfer; reducing functionality by eliminating bullet-resistance glass, anti-ligature provisions and reducing the amount of interior glass; and making reductions to the visuals of the project, including reducing landscaping and eliminating a respite patio.

The potential cuts are items “you could function without, but may compromise building goals,” Mille told The Gazette.

“For example, we’re not required by code to include anti-ligature measures, but adding some of those features is something we feel is the right thing to do based on what the building would be used for,” he said.

The reductions that could see the biggest savings — eliminating shell space and reducing storage space — were non-starters for the board members. Green-Douglass said the board has learned from similar centers not to sacrifice space or storage.

“Everywhere they say, ‘Build it bigger,’” she said. “We want to make sure we’re taking advantage of lessons learned by others and not repeating the same mistakes.”

There are other opportunities for savings, however. Miller told the board there might have been a misunderstanding about metal siding panels that could lead to a savings of up to $100,000. The board members also want to ensure they are being efficient about energy savings and making sure they have the right number of solar panels.

“You can put in too many and you’re generating this electricity you can’t use,” Green-Douglass said.

Green-Douglass said she also is interested in looking at interior building materials, furniture, fixtures, equipment and even the kind of trees on the property.

“I don’t want to reduce the quantity, but you could get a different variety of tree, for example,” she said.

Planning for the project is expected to be complete by the end of July. Miller said he anticipates it going to bid in mid-August and a bid being awarded by the end of September. Construction could begin in October.

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“As with any project there are lots of factors that could affect the timeline, but as of today I’m confident we’re on track,” Miller said.

l Comments: (319) 339-3155; lee.hermiston@thegazette.com

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