The Edmonds City Council voted 4-3 Tuesday night to approve the lowest bid for the Five Corners Roundabout project, despite misgivings expressed by Councimember Joan Bloom — and echoed by two citizens during the public comment period — that the project should be looked at further or even scrapped altogether, due to worries about higher-than-expected costs.
Councilmember Lora Petso, who has steadfastly opposed the project, and Adrienne Fraley-Monillas, who supports it, both voted with Bloom to oppose the bid approval as a show of support for Bloom’s efforts to get more detailed financial information before making a decision.
City Public Works Director Phil Williams said it was unfortunate that the lowest construction bid of the seven total received — from Marshbank Construction, Inc. for $2.934 million — came in 17.8 percent higher than engineering estimates of $2.486 million. But he noted that delaying or canceling the project would result in lost money for the city, including $1.8 million in grant money plus the $705,000 in money already spent.
“Yes, this is disappointing,” Williams said. “I certainly wish these (bid) numbers were different but they are what they are.”
City staff did review the bid to see if there were elements of the project that could be adjusted — such as lighting or crosswalk or artwork features — and estimated that the city might be able to save an estimated $222,700. However rebidding the contract would take time, which would likely result in a cost increase as the project would have to be “overwintered” during the bad weather months, Williams noted, adding there is also no guarantee that a new round of bids would come in lower.
Bloom expressed frustration with the process, telling Williams that she requested a presentation that included attachments to help her understand the costs and scope of the project, “so I can ask significant questions about it and get direct and clear answers,” she said. “I think that’s what we all need to make this decision. Otherwise it’s just like numbers and words being thrown at us.”
Bloom asked Williams if the project could be delayed by even a week to allow additional time for the requested presentation, plus perhaps even a public hearing, but Williams said the project really couldn’t accommodate even a week’s delay without the risk of running into bad weather if construction extends into November.
Council President Diane Buckshnis said there was no point in holding a public hearing as it would draw the same people who have in the past testified either before or against the project. “The longer we delay…it’s going to cost us more money anyway,” Buckshnis said.
The City so far has spent $520,000 in grant funds and $85,000 in matching money (coming from traffic impact fees) plus $100,000 from the city’s utility fund. Not all of expenditures are related to roundabout construction, Williams said, adding that “a very considerable amount” is related to utility costs. Since the streets are being dug up anyway, the city will make sewer and water line replacements that would eventually need to made anyway, he noted.
The project will also include significant improvements to the city’s stormwater system, included a stormwater vault at 84th Avenue West, Williams said. Because of that, he recommended that the funding gap caused by the higher construction bid be closed by allocating $662,000 from the stormwater utility budget — for a total of $762,000. The money can be reallocated from another stormwater project that has been delayed a year and will not require an increase in stormwater rates, Williams noted.
Councilmember Strom Peterson, a long-time roundabout supporter, expressed support for approving the bid. “I think it’s kind of time to get this project moving,” he said. When the final vote was taken, Peterson was joined by Buckshnis, Kristiana Johnson and Thomas Mesaros.
The council unanimously approved the following:
– A proposal amend the 2014-2019 Six-Year Transportation Improvement Program to include re-striping of 76th Avenue West from 220th Street Southwest to Olympic View Drive, including the addition of bicycle lanes. Adding the project to the Transportation Improvement Program means that the city can seek federal grant money for the projects, with the goal of starting construction work in 2016.
– A resolution showing support for the city to apply for grant money that could assist in acquiring the Civic Center property, located at 250 6th Ave. N., which is owned by the Edmonds School District.
– An ordinance that amends the Edmonds City Code to allow new businesses a one-year exemption before being required to join the Edmonds Downtown Business Improvement District.
– The reorganization of the Human Resources Department that makes permanent the practice of having a current city department director assume the additional duties of overseeing Human Resources.
– A resolution urging the adoption of state and federal regulations to assess the risk of petroleum transport by rail through Edmonds.