Olympia's facilities assessment finds 260 deficiencies; city projecting replacement costs for the next 20 years

City has limited capital funding sources to cover the growing repair backlog


Olympia Facility Manager Eli Cole presented findings of the recent facility assessment, which uncovered 260 deficiencies across the city's 16 municipal buildings over the past six years, with an estimated cost of $36.6 million to address all the deficiencies found during that period.

"Our facilities are on average 35 years old with a replacement value of $250 million," Cole informed the Finance Committee on Monday. He said they oversee 16 facilities totaling 420,000 square feet, which provide workspace for almost 700 employees. He added that nearly 4,500 people visit the facilities daily.

According to Cole, the city, through hiring consultants, has conducted three facility condition assessments; the latest was in 2019.

He reported that over the past six years, 260 observed deficiencies were recorded, with an estimated cost of $36.6 million to address them. Of that number, $21.5 million is considered high or medium deficiencies.

Cole said "observed deficiency" refers to a building asset past its useful lifespan. As one example, he explained that a roof typically has a 30-year service life. So, after three decades, even if no leaks are present, they will be documented as an observed deficiency in the evaluation.

Consultants gather all previously available data on each building, such as construction records, maintenance history, blueprints, and other documents. This information, along with engineers' and architects' building inspections, provides a third-party evaluation of infrastructure needs.

Some examples of current observed deficiencies that were listed in the condition report were:

  • City hall - $107,000
  • Library - $2.4 million
  • Justice Center - $8.7 million

Funding gap

Olympia Facility Manager Eli Cole highlights that the city needs $5 million annually to fund the repairs and maintenance of the buildings adequately.
Olympia Facility Manager Eli Cole highlights that the city needs $5 million annually to fund the repairs and maintenance of the buildings adequately.

Cole said the city has limited capital funding sources to cover the growing repair backlog, adding that just over $1 million is generated annually from cable TV taxes, facility rentals, and leftover general funds. That falls short of the $2.1 million needed yearly to address high—and medium-priority issues alone.

"So there $2.1 million in high and medium, those are the ones we focus on… if we were to include the low-observed deficiencies, that funding gap would rise to $5 million," Cole said.

The facility manager added that part of that revenue has already been allocated. He explained that in 2013, the city took on debt to replace the siding and the roof at the Washington Center for Performing Arts. The debt service absorbs $250,000 per year from the revenue stream.

This obligation will continue until 2033. As a result, only $1 million is available each year to address high and medium-priority deficiencies at other facilities.

Fire facility maintenance

Cole presented details on funding for the maintenance of Olympia Fire Department facilities. He reported receiving a permanent $189,505 budget enhancement this year for the upkeep of five fire stations totaling 66,290 square feet.

Cole explained that he had used industry standards from the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) to benchmark funding needs. According to IFMA guidelines, the average budget for the operation and maintenance of municipal facilities is $4.39 per square foot. However, with the $189,505 enhancement, Olympia only budgets $2.85 per square foot for the fire department locations. That leaves a shortfall of over $100,000 annually, not including any backlog of deferred maintenance work.

Olympia Finance Director Aaron BeMiller said the city is working to change its approach to the facility's budgeting process so that all buildings will incorporate facility needs into their annual analyses. That will allow costs to be appropriately charged back to relevant departments.

Long-term action

Cole also reported projections showing that the city's facilities will require an estimated $99 million in repairs and replacements over the next 20 years as infrastructure continues to age. To fund this long-term adequately, it would need $5 million in annual capital investments.

He briefly discussed the city's aging maintenance center, noting the recent facility assessment estimated replacement at $95 million in 2017.

According to the assessment report, the facility manager noted that the maintenance center alone had nearly $10 million in current observed deficiencies. "That's a major factor why it is being recommended to be replaced…we need money for that replacement."

To help address Olympia's facility funding gaps, Cole suggested removing aging facilities like the Justice Center from capital planning considerations. He said that could help reduce projected capital needs and funding shortfalls. The assessment identified $8.7 million in short-term repairs and $6.6 million in long-term needs at the Justice Center facility.

Cole added that taking the Justice Center off the portfolio would eliminate $15 million in projected repair costs at the site. That could help lower Olympia's estimated $99 million facilities maintenance burden over the next 20 years, which requires $5 million annually.


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  • BobJacobs

    The city of Olympia has in the past budgeted enough money for building maintenance. But during tight budget years that was eliminated. And not restored. Lack of discipline.

    Also, people may wonder why the city has to maintain the library. Most of Timberland's library buildings are maintained by the five-county library system. The financing system for the library district is quite inequitable.

    In addition, I question why national averages are being used in the case of the fire stations. That is far too crude.

    Bob Jacobs

    Tuesday, April 23 Report this

  • BevBassett

    Here again, as is so very often the case, the City of Olympia demonstrates very poor budgeting abilities. As Bob Jacobs comments, they lack discipline; moreover, they lack the willingness to value and respect the hard-earned tax money that ordinary citizens pay in taxes.

    In my experience watching the City of Olympia, they're mighty fast and loose with money for special interests such as consultants, but they ignore the basics of taking care of what is owned by the taxpayers that obviously requires routine maintenance and upkeep.

    Our elected officials are always quick to put out their hands for more more more without demonstrating the kind of discipline with money management that the taxpayers and citizens must demonstrate to try and keep roofs over our heads these days. We ordinary people don't have the ability to write checks on somebody else's dime and must maintain the kind of vigilance that our electeds eschew arrogantly.

    Wednesday, April 24 Report this

  • olyhiker

    There go our taxes.

    Wednesday, April 24 Report this

  • HappyOlympian

    Olympia population only about 60k. City government pretends we are much larger tax base. The claimed shortfall for fire facilities uses a national guideline from the industry which almost certainly claims more than is actually needed, no industry guideline is going to low-ball estimates. The city should do an actual evaluation of the specific needs, not just use a national metric.

    Thursday, April 25 Report this