21 city buildings need $28M in repairs The Chandler Arizonan

21 city buildings need $28M in repairs

October 4th, 2020 Chandler Arizona Staff
21 city buildings need $28M in repairs
City News
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By Kevin Reagan
Arizonan Staff Writer

Twenty-one Chandler public buildings have been found to be in “poor” condition and immediately require more than $28 million of infrastructure improvements, according to a recent assessment of city facilities.

A rating system developed by Faithful and Gould, a real estate consultant, has determined the Chandler Center for the Arts, police headquarters and senior center each need millions of dollars’ worth of maintenance needs in the near future.

Out of the 47 police stations, libraries and courthouses assessed around Chandler, Faithful determined 21 were in good condition, five were fair, and 21 were poor. None of the facilities were found to be unsafe nor were any recommended for demolition.

If the city was to not make any maintenance investments over the next decade, Faithful predicts Chandler will have 36 buildings fall into poor condition and one – the senior center – may deteriorate enough to make it unusable.

Faithful defines “poor” as a building nearing the end of its useful or serviceable life and “fair” as a facility subject to wear but still serviceable.

Dean Leonard, Faithful’s technical director, said his firm’s assessment should be interpreted as a roadmap for how the city might want to prioritize infrastructure needs over the next few years.

“It’s about creating knowledge and insight about facilities in order to make decisions,” he said.

In an uncertain era like the COVID-19 crisis, Leonard added, cities across Arizona will need more data to figure out how to meet their maintenance needs without eating too much into their budgets.

“Everybody’s still trying to get their arms around what budgets look like – what the new normal looks like,” he said.

For example, the Arizona Department of Transportation canceled a slew of improvement projects across the state after revenue projections showed it would lose tens of millions of dollars to fund them.

Faithful estimates Chandler will need to spend $65 million over the next 10 years in order to keep its highly-utilized facilities serviceable to the public.

About $28 million of those needs should be addressed within the next couple years, according to Faithful’s analysis.

The Center for the Arts, which was built in the late 1980s, and the main police station are said to each need more than $6.5 million in improvements over the next decade – the most expensive needs among the buildings assessed around Chandler.

Some expenditures these two facilities need include roofing, carpeting, plumbing and fixtures.

The main library, community center, City Hall parking garage and public works building will each need between $3-4 million to maintain upkeep.

Other facilities – like the Tumbleweed Tennis Center and the Chandler Museum – are estimated to need fewer and cheaper improvements valued at about $100,000.

City Manager Marsha Reed said Chandler’s current budget has dedicated $1.1 million for facility improvements across the city – an amount that’s subject to change each year when City Council passes a budget.

Faithful’s assessment was imperative to understanding the lifespan of Chandler’s aging buildings, Reed added, and will hopefully help the city invest its resources wisely.

“We will be having a lot more conversations around all of this as we start moving into a budget process later on into next year,” she said.

Some council members are wondering how to factor the pandemic’s impact into the findings of Faithful’s assessment.

Because so many of Chandler’s employees have spent the last six months working from home, they want to know if some of the city’s buildings could become obsolete or unneeded in the near future.

It may be a difficult question to answer, said Vice Mayor Rene Lopez, since the entire work environment and landscape has radically changed due to the pandemic.

“We have a lot more remote (workers) but now those in the office require more space because of social distancing,” said Lopez, who called on city officials to conduct a study on space utilization at the city’s buildings.   

Furthermore, Faithful’s assessment may come up again as the city decides whether to hold an election next year and ask voters to let Chandler obtain bond funding for infrastructure needs.

Bonds provide about 52 percent of the city’s funding for its capital improvement projects and city officials have recently said Chandler can’t finance some needs without a bond election.

“Without them, our ability to add new capital or maintain existing capital would be extremely limited,” Dawn Lang, the city’s management services director, said earlier this year.

The passage of a bond election doesn’t automatically add more to the city’s debt or raise property taxes, Lang added, and are generally considered a sound option for maintaining a city’s financial health.

The council recently created a committee of citizens to study the feasibility of holding a bond election.

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