City building maintenance backlog of about $16 million prompts public works plans

Phillip Downey/Staff
A stretch of Center Street in front of the new Berkeley Art Museum building is repaved through funding provided through UC Berkeley. To address a deferred building maintenance backlog of $16.39 million, the city is looking to appropriate $1.1 million annually for five years to add to its public works budget to fund tasks such as repavement.

The city is in the process of moving forward with plans of the city’s Department of Public Works to address a deferred building maintenance backlog of $16.39 million.

According to the report presented to City Council at a work session meeting in March, the department is responsible for 56 of the 95 buildings under the city’s maintenance. An additional 39 buildings are under the Parks, Recreation and Waterfront department’s purview.

To pay for the proposed maintenance improvements, the plan would require an additional appropriation of $1.1 million annually for fiscal years 2016 to 2020. This additional money would add to the existing $900,000 in the public works budget.

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The report states that during the past 25 years, the city has deferred maintenance on multiple facilities, causing the value and utility of buildings to diminish over time.

The current $900,000 budget comprises three parts: $300,000 goes toward deferred maintenance for projects in the city’s Capital Improvement Program, another $500,000 goes to urgent building repairs, and the remaining $100,000 goes toward Americans with Disabilities Act upgrades.

“This proposal is over a 100 percent increase in spending,” said Councilmember Kriss Worthington. “Our revenues have not kept pace with our expectations or our demands. … It’s a step forward that we have a five-year plan.”

According to Paul Kaushal, an associate civil engineer with the Department of Public Works, the proposed five-year plan, which was presented to the council March 24, consolidates previous building assessments performed in 1997, 2000 and 2013.

The plan outlines a grading scale for how the city appraises a building’s condition, ranging from “clean and functional” to “unusable.”

Among the buildings the plan highlights as needing work are the 1947 Center St. building, the Ann Chandler Public Health Center on University Avenue, and the North, South and West Berkeley senior centers.

Factors evaluated in the plan include accessibility, roofing, structural, plumbing and electrical systems; fire safety; and information technology systems. Officials hope that increased progress on the deferred maintenance will have the ultimate effect of improving sustainability and lowering costs.

Worthington noted that other options for funding the backlogged projects include using a bond to try covering some of the maintenance backlog more rapidly than in five years. Such a bond measure, however, would require a two-thirds vote of approval from the public.

Exactly how the plan’s proposed funding increases would fit into the city’s budget is yet to be determined. According to city spokesperson Matthai Chakko, City Council will consider a proposed biennial budget May 12, which is scheduled to go before the council June 30 for adoption.

There will also be two public hearings regarding the budget — one held May 12 and another May 26.

Contact Lenin Silva at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @LeninSilvaNunez.