Overdue Topanga Library back on track
January 25, 2011
For a while, Westside book lovers feared there might be no happy ending. But after nearly a year of revisions, disputes and other construction issues, the long-delayed Topanga Library is back on schedule again.
After months of negotiations with the county, the project’s main contractor, FEI Enterprises, Inc., has agreed to resolve scores of outstanding or disputed change requests that had helped put the project at least a year behind schedule.
A change order for $645,651.52 approved today by the Board of Supervisors settled the last of the differences, clearing the way, among other things, for FEI to finish the project.
As a result, the library is now scheduled to open this fall.
“We’ve worked out the issues between us,” said Kamel Youssef, senior capital project manager at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works. “The project is making good progress now.” (Click here for a photo gallery of early work on the library.)
The various disputes and delays, outlined in a letter to the board from Chief Executive Officer William T. Fujioka, ranged from planning problems to complications resulting from the discovery of Native American artifacts. Some were resolved separately by Public Works while others ended up being settled in the change order approved by the board on Tuesday.
Long sought by Topanga residents, who for generations have had to rely on bookmobiles and other communities’ libraries, the new facility—now estimated to come in at a total cost of $19.5 million—will bring a 42,000-volume permanent library to North Topanga Canyon Boulevard in the center of the mountain town.
Filled with civic art and built to the latest green construction standards, the new building will cover more than 11,000 square feet, featuring a reading area for adults, a community meeting room, an after-school homework center for students, teen and children’s areas, public-access computers, express-service checkout machines and a ground-floor garage.
The project, which broke ground in 2008, originally had a tentative opening date of summer 2009, which was stretched by various construction delays into the spring, and then the summer of 2010. But according to the board letter, disputes with the contractor began to arise early that year after FEI submitted a series of requests for costs of additional work it claimed had to be done because of alleged deficiencies in plans and specifications and various site-related issues.
“While there may have been some merit to some of these assertions, FEI’s proposals . . . lacked sufficient clarity, detail and justification to support the requested costs,” the board letter said. “Also, Public Works believed that FEI’s performance of the work was much slower than required by the approved schedule due to a lack of manpower and changes in FEI’s management staff.”