Costs spike for Sierra College campus | SierraSun.com

Costs spike for Sierra College campus

Andrew Cristancho
Sierra Sun

Emma Garrard/Sierra SunRob Koster, Sierra College campus project manager in Truckee, discusses progress from the second floor of the new building on McIver Hill during a tour Tuesday.

Perched atop McIver Hill between Highway 89 south and historic downtown Truckee, the steel skeleton of the new Sierra College campus stands on rocky soil.

And that has led to higher-than-expected costs, which in turn prompted the college to scale back the size of the campus building.

“Site prep is usually 10 percent of construction costs; this project is at 40,” announced Project Manager Rob Koster at a meeting Tuesday of the Sierra Joint Community College District’s board of trustees.

According to Trustee Bill Martin, the total project is not over budget.

“We knew from the outset it would be a difficult site,” Martin said in a phone interview Wednesday.

Although the seven trustees knew well in advance of the difficulties of breaking ground on McIver Hill, Koster said the initial amount for the site preparation work has now been exceeded.

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Koster said he could not put a dollar amount on the cost overrun.

Sierra College trustees met Tuesday in Truckee, one of two meetings held yearly in Truckee. The board seemed surprised that initial construction costs in Truckee could run so high.

When voters approved the $25 million Measure H in 2004, initial estimates of site preparations during early planning “were way off,” said Trustee Dave Ferrari.

Project manager Koster said contractors have already spent about $11 million on the infrastructure at the site of the new campus, including the installation of a new water line from the area of Villager Nursery north of Interstate 80.

“We did shrink the building footprint as a result of the extra site costs,” Koster said.

The project manager said the building will now be 28,000 square feet, 7,000 fewer square feet than original building plans.

“We got less building and more site work,” Koster said.

The undeveloped nature of the site contributed to costs, as McIver Hill had no water or electrical infrastructure before the project started. Digging more than a mile of trench to bury the water line was the costliest work in this phase of construction, Koster said, citing the location’s rocky soil as a major obstacle.

Koster said the next challenge facing contractors is to obtain an extension from the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board to continue ground work past the Oct. 15 grading deadline, in order to finish installing the water and phone lines. The utility trench will go under Highway 89.

The college trustees toured the facility with Koster earlier Tuesday afternoon.