Stanislaus County may modify, move morgue project

kcarlson@modbee.comJuly 16, 2013 

    alternate textKen Carlson
    Title: Staff writer
    Coverage areas: County government, health and medicine, air quality, the environment and public pension systems
    Bio: Ken Carlson has worked 13 years for The Bee, covering local government agencies in Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties. His in-depth reporting has focused on access to health care and public employee pensions.
    Recent stories written by Ken

— Stanislaus County supervisors on Tuesday formally rejected construction bids on a building remodel for the new coroner's facility and told staff to evaluate other ideas for the project.

A committee composed of Supervisors Dick Monteith and Bill O'Brien wants staff to keep working on the plans for a retrofit of the former Medical Arts center on 17th Street in downtown Modesto. But the committee wants to see options for other sites as well.

In May, the bids from four construction firms ranged from $5.32 million to $7.78 million for the extensive remodel of the former health services center. The highest bid was double the county's construction estimate of $3.75 million.

Staff said the construction firms believed that reinforcing the building would cost more than the county estimated.

Officials initially looked at building a new coroner's facility next to the Sheriff's Department complex on East Hackett Road, but there wasn't enough funding. In late 2011, county leaders approved the lower-cost plan to reuse the county-owned building on 17th Street.

The county wants to replace the coroner's office on Oakdale Road because it's too small and is poorly equipped.

O'Brien said building a new coroner's facility would be more expensive than the recent bids for the remodel. The bidders included Acme Construction of Modesto, Diede Construction of Woodbridge, F&H Construction of Lodi and Roebbelen Contracting Inc. of El Dorado Hills.

"We were seeing some price escalation in construction projects, but I thought we would still be within range," O'Brien said. "We are looking at possibly modifying the design (for the Medical Arts building). We also want to know if we have other buildings out there that could work."

The plans for the multistory downtown building would give the coroner more autopsy stations, a forensics lab and administrative offices. The proposed project includes a center for video visitations with jail inmates and records storage for the county Health Services Agency.

Patty Hill Thomas, assistant executive officer for the county, said staff members are trying to simplify the design for the Medical Arts structure in hopes the retrofit can be done within budget. At the moment, she could not suggest other county-owned facilities that might be considered.

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at or (209) 578-2321.

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