APRIL FOOLS: $50M Sciences Building to be razed, sold as scrap metal

Saddleback College’s new state-of-the-art Sciences Building, which was scheduled to open in time for the Fall 2016 semester, will now be demolished and sold as scrap metal due to lack of funding. Original plans for the 50,000 square foot facility included 26 laboratory spaces to be used for chemistry, physics, biology, astronomy, geology and marine science.

But underestimated construction costs by contractor C.W. Walker resulted in a lack of financial resources from SOCCCCD.

“The reality is we ran out of money,” said Tod A. Dillinger, president of Saddleback College. “Instead of waiting around 5 or ten years for more approved funding, we agreed on liquidating the project, getting as much back as possible.”

In October 2013, the contract was awarded to C.W. Walker, who presented the lowest estimated cost. The district approved a guaranteed maximum price of $53.8 million before construction began in December 2013.

However, a series of “change orders” ran up the estimated cost to about $67.3 million. Unable to pay an unanticipated $13 million, the project was essentially abandoned.

In its current state, the façade of the building is near completion while the interior is a dimly lit construction site. The concrete floor is covered in a layer of dust. Exposed wiring is duct-taped to the exposed framework of the proposed Sciences Building.

Once demolished, the glass curtainwalls and metal framing of the building will be sold to Old Joe’s Scrap Metal and Salvage.

“We do everything by weight,” said Joe White, owner of Old Joe’s Scrap Metal and Salvage. “Right now we are estimating about $300,000 to $370,000 for the materials from that building.”

Some money recovered from the salvage will go to the already existing Mathematics, Science and Engineering Building. However, the majority of returned funds will be used to provide the Saddleback Gauchos football team with new uniforms and equipment.

“We could really use the money, the quality of equipment sports teams use is very important,” said Gary Hannula, sports information director for the college. “We have been using the same footballs since 2011. They aren’t even round anymore.”

The deconstruction of the Sciences Building will begin in June. By the time students arrive for Fall 2016, the three-year long construction effort will be reduced to a $50 million empty lot.

“We are extremely disappointed with the way things turned out,” President Dillinger said. “Unfortunately we already paid C.W. Walker. With the exception of the $300,000 from the salvage, we are in the hole for over $50 million. They got us.”

C.W. Walker has been routinely requesting more money due to “unforeseen costs” regarding “integral building components,” a SOCCCCD status report said. The contractors, architects and project managers were paid. The Gauchos will receive their new equipment, and the district will absorb all costs.