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FREMONT, CA-The seismic retrofit of the Alameda County Veterans Hall is on shaky ground. The 70-year-old facility has been uninhabitable for the past year while undergoing the retrofit, which is slated for completion by the end of 2002. But the project has not yet gone out to bid, and cost issues, not to mention the lack of a developer, may push the completion date out even further.

Meanwhile, some veterans who say that the county’s reluctance to contend with a fiscally red-hot construction market is pushing the retrofit even further behind, and pushing the costs up. Fremont officials have negotiated a $3.25 million price tag with Alameda County as part of the city’s Redevelopment Agency merger. But county officials told veterans last week that costs are expected to outstrip that preliminary figure.

Alameda County project manager Charles Brown said that those increasing costs might force cutbacks in the project. He described three potential construction scenarios to the veterans: the initially planned overhaul, including kitchen remodeling and other historic preservation, which he said now has a $1.2 million budget shortfall; a middle-of-the-road compromise with some cutbacks but that is still $263,000 over budget; and an overhaul that would meet the planned budget but with major cutbacks.

Veterans responded angrily to the proposed cutbacks, saying the project is progressing at too slow a pace. They are currently meeting at the Fremont Senior Center and in January should move to another temporary facility pending the retrofit, city officials say.

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