ENCINITAS — Encinitas officials will celebrate the grand opening of its state-of-the-art lifeguard tower at Moonlight Beach on May 30 — a year later and costing nearly $170,000 more than originally expected.
The Moonlight Beach Marine Safety Center has been operational since November, but Encinitas officials decided to wait until the week after Memorial Day — the unofficial start of the summer beach season — to celebrate the completion with the public.
Originally, the tower’s opening was slated for Memorial Day weekend in 2017, but staff announced in April 2017 it would not be ready for several months due to weather delays, the discovery of lead, asbestos and an underground seawall that wasn’t anticipated. Summer came and went, and officials again delayed the opening until the fall.
The final price tag for the tower: $3.896 million, significantly higher than the $3.728 million price tag the council originally approved.
City officials defended the overruns and delays by pointing to the fact that the lifeguard tower won the 2018 American Public Works Association project of the year award.
“Please respond to this reporter. This might be a good opportunity to highlight the ‘Best Project Award!” Assistant City Manager Mark Delin wrote in an email to city staffers Brenda Wisneski and Stephanie Kellar asking them to respond to questions submitted by The Coast News.
Kellar responded with details about the original budgeted amount and some of the reasons why the project exceeded the budget.
“The MSC, which is the recipient of a 2018 American Public Works Association Project of the Year award, is now the center of Encinitas marine safety operations,” Kellar wrote. “The MSC includes a first aid room; locker, storage, and restroom areas; a sheriff desk and workstation; and observation space on the second story. The facility includes a 360-degree deck affording the lifeguards views of the water, the beach, B Street, C Street, and the Moonlight State Beach parking area. A crow’s nest of the roof further enhances the ability to monitor the beach.”
According to Kellar, the largest cost overruns were with the temporary lifeguard facilities ($42,000 compared to a $20,000 original budget) and the wi-fi, cabling and data systems that serve the lifeguard emergency alerting system and communications needs ($55,000 compared to a $27,000 original budget)
Encinitas officials sold lease revenues bonds to finance the original project budget, but paid for the overruns through a combination of $103,361 in asset forfeiture funds and $65,000 in general fund money.
The Coast News reached out to Mayor Catherine Blakespear for comment on the budget overruns and delay.