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Bluebird recovery costs keep soaring

Optimism about the cost and time to repair the Bluebird Canyon landslide has given way to harsh reality.

Cost estimates for the project have skyrocketed to $28 million, and the city will be asking the Federal Emergency Management Agency for an extension of time to complete the restoration, according to a report made to the City Council at the Feb. 13 meeting.

“We hope to complete all work on the site by Aug. 9,” Recovery Coordinator Bob Burnham said.

Burnham attributed the delays and higher costs to assumptions about the amount of dirt that needed to be graded, which proved faulty; the difficulty in finding accessible storage space for the removed dirt and moving it back and forth as needed; the increase in the cubic yards of soil cement needed because of the additional material to be removed, due to slope failures; and the reallocation of the grading originally assigned to the Bluebird Canyon Drainage Restoration Project to the Flamingo Road restoration.

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“Candidly, we could and should have considered some of these factors in developing previous estimates and schedules,” Burnham reported to the council.

“In hindsight, the previous estimates and schedules were too optimistic and did not reflect the type of conservative analysis that should have been used given the nature of the material and limited size of the site.”

All but $2 million of the latest cost estimate is expected to be covered by FEMA and the Governors Office of Emergency Service.

As of Jan. 20, the city had spent about $21.9 million on the landslide recovery and about $8.2 million on the Flamingo Road restoration, Burnham said.

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The grading setbacks also ate up time. With the delays in mind, the council unanimously voted in favor of Burnham’s recommendation to modify provisions in the agreement between property owners and the city that implemented fee waiver and rebuilding procedures to assist families displaced by June 2005 landslide.

Modifications to the agreement included extension of the fee waivers to three years from 18 months, fees to be based on those in effect before June 1, 2006 when the rates were substantially raised; and a reduction in the noticing and staking requirements to 10 working days instead of 40-plus. Expedited review of rebuilding applications would stay in effect for three years after all recovery work on a parcel is completed.

“The residents want to thank the council for their support,” Burnham said.


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