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Re: OPEN LETTER TO SAC JOINT VENTURE AND SEAOC MEMBERSHIP

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This letter is in response to the long thread of messages posted in the
last several weeks, with regard to the decision by the SAC Joint Venture to
pursue the San Bernardino project.  Please note that although I am a member
of the SAC Project Management Committee, for the original FEMA project, I
am not a member of the Joint Venture Management Committee, which made the
decision to pursue the project, with the approval of the Board of Directors
of each of the three venture partners.  My stated opinions below should be
regarded as personal, rather than those of the venture.

Because Steve Johnston's thoughts and questions are so clealy ordered, in
this most recent post, I will use his posting as a background for my
replies:



Steve Johnston wrote:


Paragraph 1-4 of SAC Advisory No. 3 states: SAC is a joint venture of
SEAOC,
ATC and CUREe formed specifically to address both immediate and long term
needs related to solving the problem of the WSMF connection". Further, at
the
end of the second paragraph on page 1.6: "the long term goal is to complete
research and testing programs to develop sound guidelines for seismic
design
and detailing of improved or alterntive WSMF connections for new buildings,
as well as reliable retrofitting concepts for existing undamaged structures
and repair methods for dmaged WSMF structures".

It now seems tht SAC is endeavoring to expand on the charge for which it
was
originally created and endorsed. This, to me, creates major conflicts of
interest, especially when one considers that, as far as presently known,
SAC
is yet to complete the original charge and obligation to the structural
engineering profession as a whole and the membership of the three joint
venture partners specifically. Further, it was never anticipated that SAC
would enter into direct competition with the engineering membership from
which it was formed.

The jooint venture management committee made the deicision to pursue this
project on behalf of SAC.  THe JVMC is comprised of two representatives of
SEAOC, two of ATC, and two of CUREE.  Before electing to pursue this
project, careful consideration was given to its implications and a number
of issues were explored.  These include the following:

1- Does the project fit within the general scope of the pre-existing SAC JV
agreement.  It was agreed that it did not and that before SAC could pursue
this project, it would be neccerssary to  obtain approval of the Board of
Directors of each  Venture Partner.  This was done.

2-  Was this a logical extension of the ongoing SAC work?  The JVMC felt
strongly that it was.  This project is not about retrofitting a building
at the CAL STATE San Bernardino Campus.  It is about evaluating alternative
methods of seismic retrofit for existing vulnerable WSMF buildings to
determine what the most practical approaches are.  The CSU  San Bernardino
project is being used only as a "demonstration project", the intent being
to demonstrate that upgrade of existing WSMFs can be practically
implemented.  The total FEMA budget allocation for this project is
$5,000,000,  Of this allocation, $3.54million is for construction of the
demonstration project approximately $1.4 million is for "Research into
alternative methods of retorfit - to determine an effective approach" and
the balance $100k for construction document development.  The RFP requires
that submitters include collaborative teams of  practicing engineers and
researchers..  SAC viewed the $1.4 million research component as a direct
extension of its current work to develop effective risk mitigation
techniques for existing WSMF structurse.  It elected to submit only for the
research component, not the development of construction documents.

3- Is SAC  looking to expand its original charter?  The answer is no.  In
the past the JVMC has reviewed the potential pursuit of other projects
including the Wood Frame project currently being performed by CUREe.  The
JVMC decided that such a project was outside the intended purpose of SAC,
and did not pursue this.  The research component of the San Bernardino
project was viewed as directly complimentary to the ongoing SAC work and a
potentially important adjunct.


Steve Johnston wrote:
The SAC WSMF has been proceeding for some four years now, and in spite of
the
fact that interim guidelines and advisories have been published, the
structural engineering profession has yet to receive any comprehensive
final
report. Indeed, it is understood that SAC is having "second thoughts" on
earlier interim recommendations based on continuing testing and analyses
performed in 1997 and 1998, conducted after the earlier reports were
published. This implies that SAC intends to use information from the SAC
study not yet available to the profession, at the least a questionable
position to assume.

Yes it is true that SAC has not yet published a final report and that it is
now believed that some of the recommendations contained in the original
Interim Guidelines (FEMA-267) and its update (FEMA-267ba  could be improved
upon.  This is not surprising-  If everything that could  have been known
when FEMA-267 was published in August, 1995 was actually known, there would
have been no need for the last 4 years work and the "Interim Guidelines"
would have been called "Final Guidelines".  The Final Guideline and Design
Criteria documents are currently under preparation.  50% complete drafts of
these documents were published for review by the profession in February,
1999 and a workshop was held in Los Angeles to receive comment.  The SEAOC
Seismology and Existing Buildings Committees have been asked to participate
directly in the review process.  The project is currently in the final
stages of publishing a second update to FEMA-267, termed FEMA-267b -
Interim  Guidelines Advisory No. 2.  It is in the final review process and
should be available to the profession, shortly.  No attempt is being  made
to conceal any information from anyone.  To the contrary, we are attempting
to disseminate as much information as possible to the profession.  Howver,
we are trying to make the information available in a way that makes sense,
with the various phases of the project (testing, analysis, materials
investigation) coordinated and considered, rather than continuing to put a
number of "interim findings" out on teh street.

Steve Johnston wrote:
One must ask how SAC would intend to proceed if it was successful in being
awarded the work for the Sate University? It would not create its own
independant staff to execute the work, suggesting that it would act as
"middle man" in awarding the work to a qualified engineering firm. Who then
would be in responsible charge, and would this do little more than add
unnecessary overhead costs to the effort?

If successful, SAC would appoint a Project Managemenet Committee to manage
and coordinate the work, just as it did for the current FEMA project.  The
PMC would consist of three individuals - Ron Mayes, Chia Ming Uang and Tom
Sabol.  As with the other work performed by SAC, most of the actual
research would be performed by independent contractors (universities and
engineers) selected on a qualifications -based  approach.

Note that Tom Sabol was selected to be a part of the PMC for this project
because on the current SAC project, he is the Guideline Writer responsible
for developing retrofit guidelines.  It was felt the San Bernardino project
would be directly useful in assisting in that task.

Steve Johnston wrote:
It would seem appropriate at this stage of near completion of the
originally
stated SAC goal for SAC to make a public statement as to what it sees as
its
ongoing charge, if any, beyond completion of the WSMF project. Does it
intend
to solicit more engineering work? With all of the agencies such as NEHRP,
BSSC, IBC, ATC, not to mention SEAOC and its four associations, with whom
engineers must maintain some manner of awareness, it seems to me
appropriate
that SAC close its books upon completion of its current effort, and if
necessary, reconstitute itself in the future if some really meaningful
research effort shoudl so demand.

I believe that SAC has no plans to continue as an organization, beyond
completion of the WSMF project (and any supplemental projects directly
related to it).  As noted above, SAC has already declined to pursue other
research projects, such as the CUREe wood frame proejct.  However, I
believe that FEMA feels the SAC approach to performing such research, where
in practicing engineers, researchers, and industry reprsentatives from
around the country participate in a joint solution of a specific problem,
has been extremely effective.  This is based on personal conversations I
have had with Bob Volland, former head of the National Earthquake Program.
I believe it would behoove  SEAOC ATC and CUREE to consider reforming the
venture in the future, when similar problems and opportunities arrive.


Steve Johnston wrote-
Speaking of closing the books, I don't know how much of the originally
requested $18,000,000 was finally authorized or used. I have requested
three
times that a general overall statement of income and expense be provided
the
SEAOC membership, this to let the interested membership understand where
the
bulk of the money was spent. I've never received any response to these
requests. And this goes to emphasize how little the general membership of
SEAOC knows or understands about the internal structure of SAC. It's stated
to be a partnership, organizationally speaking. Are the delegates from the
three sponsoring parties partners? Who controls the receipt and disbursal
of
funds? How are business and technical decisions made in this "partnership"?

I am not sure in what forum Steve requested the information.  Both as a
SEAOC Board member, and also as a member of the SAC PMC, this is the first
I have heard of the request.  The project was not funded to the full $18
million  originally proposed, or even close.  The initial phase I project
included a total budget of  about $1.5 million.  The phase II project,
awarded in 1996 included an additional budget of $8.6 million.  A minor
extension of $300,000 was later granted for some work scope changes.  The
total is about $10 million.
Of this nearly, all of the money has been disbursed through the three JV
partners, to subcontractors including University Research labs, private
consulting firms and individuals.


The JOint Venture is governed by a six member, Joint Venture Management
Committee, as previously discussed.  This JVMC makes general decisions that
are within the charter of the  venture agreement.  Periodic reports, both
financial and technical are made back to the Boards of Diretors of each
Association.  The books of the Joint Venture are maintained by the SEAOC
office, and are open to audit by interested parties.