New Probation Office Contract

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

December 18, 2020

County Supervisors approved a contract with an engineering firm to plan a new home for the County Probation Department in a spot by the old General Hospital on Johnson Avenue in SLO.

Supervisors approved a $1.4 million contract with Kitchell for construction management with master architectural services “consistent with a Design-Build project implementation,” reads a report from Capital Projects Manager, Robert Ruiz, who works in the Design Division of County Planning and Building.

Currently, the County Probation Department is in “Casa Loma,” a 1940s-era home on Bishop Street. The building is “outdated and in need of constant repair,” reads Ruiz’ report. (It should be noted that this Probation Office is for adults and separate from the Juvenile Services Center on Kansas Avenue, also run by the Probation Department but focusing on the juvenile justice system.)

According to a 2017 facilities study for a new probation office, three sites were looked at. The study concluded that the department needs 31,500 square feet of space and it should be built at the County Health Campus on Johnson Avenue (at Bishop Street), where the Health Department is located, in an area behind the main buildings that front onto Johnson.

In 2019, the County developed a master plan for the Johnson Avenue Campus that “included a programmatic study to determine the square footage required for all functions/departments recommended to be located on the campus over a 20-year timeframe. The conceptual master plan was developed assuming a phased build out of the Campus with the new Probation Department building and associated parking being Phase 1.”

The site would be the home of the Probation Department for at least the next 20 years but the project was not without hiccups.
Last January when this plan was first brought to the Supervisors there was an uproar when it called for removing the Child Development Resource Center of the Central Coast, a child daycare facility located on the site.

Supervisors told staff to look at alternatives that included leaving the childcare center where it is. This contract won’t include the CDRC’s area.

“The Construction Manager – Master Architect contract is for work on Phase 1 of the conceptual master plan only and Phase 1 does not require removal of the CDRC,” Ruiz wrote. “The CM-MA’s work on Phase 1 will assist in the development of at least one option for build out of remaining phases of the conceptual master plan where the CDRC remains on site, which is consistent with the Board’s direction.”

Kitchell’s contract will include helping the County develop “bridging documents” and assisting in soliciting and selecting a design-build contractor that will both design and construct the new office building.

This design-build method of delivery is relatively new process for SLO County, which has only one other project — the new animal shelter on Oklahoma Avenue under construction now — being done in this manner.
Under design-build, the same company designs and constructs the project, with a company like Kitchell acting as project managers representing the County.

The Supervisor’s vote allowed for the County to release a “Request for Statements of Qualifications” (RSOQ) seeking design-build firms to send in qualification statements. A firm would be selected from those applicants and a best price would be solicited for the job.

Supervisors also agreed to establish an account that would pay the top two qualified bidders $25,000 each to help cover their costs in applying for the job, so long as one is chosen for the contract.

Right now, the County has $2.75 million set aside for the project that would take it through the “recommendation of the design-build entity,” in other words to the point of designing and constructing the building.

The staff plans to return to the Board in September with total project cost, an award for the design-build contract, and whatever budget adjustments or financing options are available.

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