Richmond Port project on hold as council to weigh two competing sites

on May 2, 2012

A divided City Council halted a grant-funded port security construction project Tuesday, opting to put plans for the site on hold while exploring the feasibility of a nearby location.

The move delays a nearly $4 million project to build a security and operations center for first responders at 1411 Harbour Way South, the Richmond Port’s current main office. Councilman Tom Butt lobbied for more than a month, first to initiate a $40,000 engineering assessment of Riggers Loft, and now to await the results. Butt said Riggers Loft may be a better site not only for the center but also for other businesses and historical operations related to the city’s World War II Homefront attractions. Riggers Loft originally served as a wartime supply shop, and is one of the few remaining buildings at historic Shipyard 3.

Click here for more information about Riggers Loft

“There is not some kind of well thought out plan” for the Harbour Way site, Butt said. “It’s premature to make a conclusion that one site is superior to another.”

The council weighed three options for the project over more than two hours of often sharp exchanges. The first option was to re-affirm the current project with the current contractor Alten Construction, but renegotiate to a price within the state grant’s $3.7 million total.

Number two, which Executive Port Director Jim Matzorkis said was crafted to meet Butt’s concerns, would explore the feasibility of moving the security and operations center to Riggers Loft, a vacant 26,000-square-foot building constructed during World War II.

Matzorkis and his staff recommended a third option Tuesday, which would have put the Harbour Way project out to bid again in an effort to get project costs within the grant amount.

“The reason we continue to recommend (Harbour Way) is that from very beginning, local law enforcement and fire (department) believed that a site overlooking the Richmond inner harbor and with good accessibility is the best place,” Matzorkis said.

Click here for a staff report comparing the two sites.

The council declined the staff recommendation, voting 5-2 to get more information about a possible center at Riggers Loft. Councilmen Corky Booze and Nat Bates dissented.

“We need to have fuller information,” said Mayor Gayle McLaughlin. “Right now, there are too many unknowns.”

More than 20 public speakers weighed in. Virtually all supported the staff recommendation to go ahead with the project at Harbour Way, arguing that delaying the project would jeopardize construction jobs.

The council is expected to revisit the issue next month.

For a longer version of this article, visit the Contra Costa Times

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