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Construction on the new central plant in downtown Sacramento, one of the biggest public works projects in the state, may halt next week if the budget crisis is not resolved.
The stoppage of construction could idle as many as 300 construction workers, and delay the completion of the plant, which is currently scheduled to begin operation in May of this year. When finished, the building would be one of the few LEED Gold certified buildings in the country.
J.B. Hall, foreman for contractor Skanska USA Building, Inc., acknowledged that his workers could be idled as soon as next week, but he couldn’t go into any detail. Several workers on the site were well aware that things could stop on a job they’ve been working since it broke ground in November 2006.
“We’re hearing all sorts of things,” confided one hardhat who declined to give his name. “We’ve been working on this a long time, it’s a good job, and this would be a big loss for us. We’ve got families.”
Eric Lamoureux, spokesman for the Department of General Services, which oversees the project, said Wednesday that “millions of dollars of public works projects are on hold right now, from CalTrans to public school construction,” and that it was a “possibility” that the construction of the new central plant could halt. (The current central plant, built in 1968, continues to provide heat and cooling to state offices.)
He also confirmed that work had already been halted on the environmental retro-fitting of the twin towers known as Office Building 8 and Office Building 9, in the block bounded by 7th and 8th, and P and Q Streets. Adjacent to the central plant, which is one block west, the two towers are among the state’s oldest buildings. Retrofitting on Office Building 8 had already been completed late last year.
The new central plant was touted by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger when the structure was “topped” (structurally completed) last October. The plant is a keystone of Schwarzenegger’s attempt to “green” as many state buildings as possible. When finally completed, it will likely be given a Leadership in Energy Efficiency and Environmental Design (LEED®) Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
Like its predecessor, the plant will provide the steam and chilled water to heat and cool more than 5.5 million square feet of office space in the state Capitol and 22 other state-owned buildings downtown. It will do so using just 10 percent of the water used by the current plant, which is located in the same block but which was built in 1968.
When it goes online, some 22,000 state workers will enjoy the new plants’ heating and cooling effects.
But the plant’s short-term fate rests on a resolution to the state’s ongoing budget mess.