Collaboration in Civic Spheres

State Parks Repair Backlog $463M; Current Funding Scant

by December 30th, 2013

Washington State Parks have a backlog of deferred maintenance projects valued at $463 million now, up from $373 million in 2001, according to a new report to the legislature from the state parks and recreation commission. Current legislative funding for the backlog is a scant $7 million. The news comes as the parks system continues to wrestle with tough new fiscal realities sure to require more reliance on outside revenue and far less from Olympia.

This is the first of a series of ongoing annual reports on deferred maintenance after lawmakers earlier this year approved $9.4 million for deferred maintenance and for new revenue-producing amenities such as cabins and yurts in the fiscally-troubled state parks system. Of that amount, up to $7 million is to be used in the 2013-15 budget period to reduce the backlog.

Though dated December 1, the new report to the legislature and the state Office of Financial Management was not posted online until later in the month. Deferred maintenance is described in the report as major facilities repair work that’s expected to last 13 years or more and meets the state’s definition of a capital project.

The current preliminary estimate of $463 million could turn out to be higher, or perhaps lower, for at least two reasons cited in the report.

For starters a recent inventory of parks system buildings will be gradually updated as parks staff undertake more detailed inspections and use an online system to further detail a “facility condition indicator” or FCI for each of the system’s almost 2,800 buildings. The report says this expanded data collection and reporting will help “form the basis for future maintenance and capital budget priorities.”

As well, assessments of road and utility systems in the state parks system that are part of the current backlog estimate are based on projections from 2001 data. FCIs will also have to be developed for roads and utilities and so those current cost assessments could shift, too.

The report says the FCI effort will also include development of a public-facing GIS mapping tool to show for state parks and specific buildings in each a host of identifiers including building type, square footage, condition on a scale of 1 (best) to 5 (worst), construction date, and comments.

Looking just at the first $7 million now available for deferred maintenance work, the parks system has developed a list of 99 high-priority projects worth $6.7 million, says the report. That’s just 1.4 percent of the current estimated backlog. There’s also a back-up list of additional projects if any of those 99 cannot advance in a timely manner.

Of the 99 repair or replacement projects 40 are for buildings, 14 for general facilities or grounds, 13 for roofs, 12 for marine facilities, nine for sewers, eight for electrical, and three for water systems.

The report notes that three of the 99 have been completed as of November 30, 12 are in or nearing construction, and 84 are in the permitting or pre-permitting assessment phase.

The parks system report says project cost estimates include indirect and overhead expenses of not more than 15 percent for each, and that to reduce these costs “will require a balanced approach” involving use of agency staff and outside contractors.

But organized labor will have to give its blessing; the report adds that “one element in achieving this balance requires formal notification and working with representatives of the Washington Federation of State Employees and undertaking negotiations in compliance with the agency’s Collective Bargaining Agreement.

That’s just one piece of bracing fiscal reform agenda for Washington State Parks, however. As we reported last year, the system has taken a huge hit in state support of its operating budget, has had to cut key staff and programs, and is faced with a choice between a highly-commercialized and user fee-driven future or one as a non-profit which still would have to reply on user fees and other largesse.

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