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Council agreed to look at the feasibility of solar panels for the El Corazon Aquatics Center and Senior Center. Photo by Samantha Nelson
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El Corazon Aquatics Center to finish this summer, may get solar panels

OCEANSIDE — With construction of the El Corazon Aquatics Center nearing completion, the city is now looking into whether or not installing solar panels on both the Aquatics Center and the El Corazon Senior Center complexes is feasible.

The Oceanside City Council directed staff to move forward with a solar panel feasibility memorandum along with another change order for the Aquatics Center at its Jan. 20 meeting.

Change orders are issued to record an amendment to the original construction contract between a contractor and a customer. In 2019, the council approved a contract with PCL Construction to build the Aquatics Center for about $19.9 million, along with other contingencies, services, equipment and fees for an overall total of $26 million.

That same year, City Council approved an amendment that grants the city engineer permission to sign off on any change orders up to $200,000, while anything higher must go to Council for approval.

The city engineer approved the first six change orders, but Council approved change orders No. 7 and 8 on Oct. 20, 2020, in the amount of $503,539.

Change order No. 9, the most recent, covers additional charges in the amount of $232,144.

According to City Engineer Brian Thomas, the change order addresses cost increases from underground conflicts, design changes and staff-requested upgrades for better safety.

Thomas told Council there would be at least one more change order to cover details missed by the original design plans along with additional items to make the site “better usable.”

The project was also pushed back about 160 days as a safety net for both the contractor and the city, but it won’t be much longer until it’s expected to open this summer.

“Construction’s almost complete at this point,” Thomas said.

Midori Simovich, a Friends of El Corazon board member, told City Council that the group was “disappointed” by the Aquatics Center’s design plans.

“We would like to remind you that the El Corazon Specific Plan includes a sustainability provision,” Simovich said. “We are disappointed to see that several design decisions that have been made are not consistent with that provision and they were not presented to the public.”

Simovich said the Friends are also concerned about change orders that were already approved including more than $24,000 for changes to accommodate the new arena proposed for El Corazon. She also questioned what happened to the solar panels that were supposed to be installed with the facility.

“We feel solar panels over the parking lot will be more cost-effective and eco-friendly in the long run,” Simovich said.

After some discussion, Council agreed to have staff deliver a memo on the feasibility of solar panels for the Aquatics Center and Senior Center.

City Manager Deanna Lorson said the city had in the last few years completed a project installing solar panels on a number of facilities, noting that it was perhaps time for more.

“Another round of solar certainly seems like a wise investment for future sustainability of the city,” Lorson said.