January 29, 1995 in Nation/World

Hiring Outside Advisers Kept New Library On Track

By The Spokesman-Review

The downtown Spokane library was completed a year ago $1 million under budget.

How did library officials pull it off, considering the Lincoln and Main location is unstable and built on fill?

In part because they spent about $400,000 up front for a construction management firm to coordinate the $13.8 million project.

“It was very valuable,” Library Director Dan Walters said. “They provided professional, detailed management that was beyond the scope of our administrative staff.”

A couple of blocks away from the library is the Spokane Transit Authority bus station, plagued by construction problems, delays and cost overruns.

STA did not hire a construction manager, but put its in-house architect in the project manager’s chair.

“You’re asking for a disaster,” said Joe Bruscia, a construction manager for Heery International in Atlanta.

Bruscia oversaw the Spokane library project, coordinating issues involving the contractor, subcontractors, suppliers, engineers, architects and library executives and board members.

“Program management starts before the architect is hired,” he said. “Most owners don’t have the people on staff who are familiar with that entire process.”

Once construction begins, price fluctuations usually stay within 2 percent, Bruscia said, if the project is well managed.

The building portion of the bus plaza jumped in cost by about 30 percent.

The Spokane Arena, under construction north of the river from the library, also employs an outside construction manager.

“It creates a very cooperative effort,” Bruscia said. “Everyone pulling in the same direction.”

Walters, who has construction experience from his days in King County, is not versed on the STA project but said public agencies generally can create their own luck with foresight.

Big investments in good project management up front can cure headaches later.

“You get into trouble any time you pretend you know more than you do,” Walters said. “Time is money.”

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