Replacement Scaffolding Is a Bad Sign at Troubled Board of Equalization Building

Friday, July 25, 2014
Scaffolding at Board of Equalization (photo: Brian Nguyen, Sacramento Bee)

Two years after the troubled Board of Equalization (BOE) high-rise office building in Sacramento was encased in scaffolding at a rental cost of $10,000 a month, the hardware is finally coming down.

In its place, crews will erect new scaffolding purchased for $100,609 and keep it there for an indefinite period of time.

The Sacramento Bee reported Thursday that BOE Chairman Jerome Horton is not happy because the move by the state Department of General Services (DGS) indicates workers will be stuck in a building described by the Bee as having a “history of toxic mold, defective elevators, leaking windows, corroded wastewater pipes, floods, and exterior glass panels that spontaneously break or pop off.

Horton wants a new building for his 3,000 or so employees, not “permanent” scaffolding on the 24-story structure. “Even though my lawyers told me not to say this, I don’t think it’s safe,” Horton told the Bee.

The state has spent $60 million on repairs in recent years and anticipates spending an additional $115 million. Another $2.3 million has been paid to settle workers' compensation claims and lawsuits, according to the Associated Press. The building was originally meant to be occupied by 2,200 employees.

A $50-million claim was filed earlier this month against the state on behalf of workers claiming mold in the building is making them sick. The claim, which is a required precursor to a lawsuit, is a follow-up to a suit filed by the same lawyer, Anthony Perez, which was settled in 2012.

“People continue to show problems of mold exposure,” Perez told the Sacramento Business Journal. “You have management stating to employees that the building is safe, and that remediation has been successful. That is untrue.”

BOE took possession of  the building in 1992 from the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) and immediately was faced with problems when it rained. By 1998, the leaks had grown worse and windows were falling off the building. Seven hit the ground by 2005.

The state exercised its option to buy the building in 2006, using $81 million from the Pooled Money Investment Account (PMIA). One year later, water intrusion was blamed for mold found on the top three floors, requiring the relocation of 200 employees. That same year, bats were found on the 12th floor.

Water lines burst in 2008, flooding two floors. Elevators were overhauled the next year.

The Bee reported in June that the Office of the State Fire Marshal found a faulty fire system pump and put the building under fire watch. That meant someone had to walk the high-rise daily looking for fire hazards.

That tidbit was noted by analysts for the Senate Committee on Governmental Organization, which was considering Assembly Bill 1656, legislation authorizing new headquarters for BOE. The Assembly unanimously passed the bill and sent it to the Senate on May 29.     

BOE has been unable to secure funding for a new building through the budget process. The bill requires DGS, which has access to several building projects, to figure something out by December 31, 2015.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Scaffolding Purchase Prompts Blast from California Board of Equalization Chairman (by Jon Ortiz, Sacramento Bee)

State Office Building Racks Up Millions in Repairs (by Fenit Nirappil, Associated Press)

New $50 Million Claim Hits BOE over Mold-Related Illness (by Allen Young, Sacramento Business Journal)

Troubled California State Building Makes Investment—in Scaffolding (by Jon Ortiz, Sacramento Bee)

Threat of Litigation Looms over Faulty Board of Equalization Tower (by Jon Ortiz, Sacramento Bee)

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