Five Corners Roundabout construction ready to roll following 4-3 Edmonds City Council vote

Public Works Director Phil Williams explains to Edmonds City Council money spent so far on the Five Corners Roundabout project.

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.

An artist's rendering of the proposed roundabout at Five Corners.
An artist’s rendering of the proposed roundabout at Five Corners.

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.




56 Replies to “Five Corners Roundabout construction ready to roll following 4-3 Edmonds City Council vote”

  1. There needs to be a Federal Audit of these Federal Grant related projects that the vast majority of citizens of Edmonds do not wish to have, cannot see the point of them and appear to NOT meet the CRITERIA (again!) of the description of the grants and what they are for. These are NEED based grants and at the very least should follow all FEDERAL guidlelines. There are enormous amounts of $$$$ being thrown around like it is nothing. This seems to be a pattern.

    There is something quite wrong with the fact that there isn’t more DETAILED financial information given


  2. The citizens of Edmonds should not be asked to pay another dime in taxes, when programs like this are able to go through. This project, with the lowest bid being higher than expected, will cost hundred of thousands if not a million over expected costs. We don’t have the money! Such a simple concept for the council do not get, but obviously one they chose not o hear. We should all remember that come election time!. .


  3. The City’s Comprehensive Transportation Plan dated November, 2009 mentions a cost of $1,910,100 to install a single-lane roundabout at 212th Street SW/84th Avenue W.

    Brian Soergel posted an article on a different website titled “Five Corners Roundabout: Public Works Director Replies to Funding Questions” dated December 16, 2011. That article included an apparent representation by Public Works Director Phil Williams that should Edmonds move forward with the roundabout, we would ultimately spend only $340,000 of local money, get a much more efficient and safer intersection, a more environmentally friendly intersection, and a huge upgrade in appearance and development potential.

    I think we are looking at spending much more than $340,000 of local money, and we’ve hardly broken ground. Are we looking at potential estimated costs of over $4.2 million (mentioned during last night’s audience comments) already – with related funding obtained standing at $2,372,500? Potential change orders, possibly equitable adjustments and who knows what else awaits us.

    I wonder what level of public support this project would have received had the public been provided an accurate estimate of TOTAL local money required.


  4. This will be a transformative project for the future of the City of Edmonds. It will increase the quality of life for countless citizen motorists and pedestrians of all ages, raise property values in the Five Corners neighborhoods across the board, stimulate small business development in a critical commercial area, help protect the local environment, and leave a legacy of aesthetic beauty and attractive, smart urban design to the community’s children and grandchildren. A decade from now observers will be remarking on the high value of this transportation and utility infrastructure investment and no one will be lamenting the $2.934 million bid. Change can be scary and confusing, and it is anything but simple. However, let’s embrace a positive outlook and withhold judgment until we’ve had a few years to contemplate the challenges and rewards of this project in retrospect. Thanks.


    1. They couldn’t pick the worst time to do this project. These small business around 5 corners depend on the heavy traffic flow during the spring and especially summer time to boost income. Now the small business gotta wait till OCT. 27th which by then will rain and cold weather will be coming in.


  5. Another example of living, and doing public work in the fantasy land of federal grants. It makes a city do things that it doesn’t need to do (‘look, we got a grant!’). Grants require local matching, and when the project ‘blows up’ as was expected for the 5 Corners work, we’re stuck! Drop the art work portion, for starters and look for other cost reductions for this needless project. Just this week drove up to Mount Vernon, La Connor and saw small roundabouts w/o fancy trimmings and the traffic moved ok. Again, what’s the purpose of this project? A capital improvement project to support public art, or a simple solution to whatever problem DPW believes exists @ 5 Corners?


  6. Another prior mention of estimated project costs is found on the City’s website – Transportation Benefit District Project Rank: 5:

    ROADWAY PROJECTS TBD Project Rank: 5 PROJECT NAME: 212th St. SW / 84th Ave. W (5-Corners) Intersection Improvements ESTIMATED PROJECT COST: $2,271,000 PROJECT DESCRIPTION: The intersection of 84th Ave and 212th St. SW is 5 legged, which also includes Main Street and Bowdoin Way approaches.

    Please remember, I think the earliest version of the Capital Improvement Project (CIP) Description related to Haines Wharf Park I ever saw estimated the Project Cost was $140,000.


  7. I applaud council, and Phil Williams, for remaining steadfast and moving forward with a vital part of revitalization in this part of town. There are several items at play, and I think many of them can be remedied through public involvement:

    1. Time is money – The cost of projects typically increase over time. Mr. Reidy, you point out that the project has been slated since 2009. Luckily, the NHCCI has remained at very low points over the course of the four or five years that Council has had the opportunity to think about it. Putting off this project, in a time of rising costs for construction, means that eventually improvements will be done, at a much more expensive price.

    2. Project Management is always key – I have reviewed thousands of public projects in my professional life, and yes, there are budget and cost over-runs in a large majority of them. Managing the contractor, managing the PE firm, and managing the expectations of the public are extremely difficult. What compounds the cost for these types of projects is continued “thinking” about it. Mobilization fees, the cost to pick up a design after 30% has been completed, the cost of ROW acquisition, the cost of labor to complete the job, the cost of materials needed on the job – all increase with time. Managing the project is the way to save the city money – saying “let’s not do this” after spending money is sometimes the right approach, but in this case, I believe it is not so.

    3. Council has requested questions for this project (as well as others) that can only be answered during the design phase. Unfortunately, the folks who speak up are the ones who are opposed to every project, and I hope, that with the support of my neighbors here at Five Corners, we can become a vocal contingent to bring modernization, a pleasant streetscape, and a welcoming TCD to this part of town. I will continue to voice support and will continue to rally my neighbors to become part of this process.

    Once again, I welcome this project. Combined with the enhancements at 212th Street and 76th, it will create a safer, investment friendly, and distinct Edmonds feel. It will manage traffic from the high school to Five Corners, where there is a high need for public safety, it will beautify and promote a vital intersection in Edmonds, and most of all, it will begin to holistically approach the proper and smart development of a key revenue generator for the city.

    Thanks again to those councilmembers who supported this project.


    1. George,
      Your statement above was a pretty fluffy piece, thought I was holding a kitten there for a while.
      “Managing the contractor”, as was done on the 5th Ave, overlay and ADA project.
      The new ramps were poured, and two days later a fleet of “managers” where there wearing their new bright safety vests, all carrying new 6 foot levels.
      The next day a vast majority of the three day old concrete was torn out and the forms were all redone, and the concrete re-poured. Who paid for that?
      Fifth ave was a pretty easy and simple job, even if the taxpayers didn’t pay for the mistake, it was not “managed” well. History is the track record.
      “smart development of a key revenue generator for the city”……the hyperbole is clouding the issue.
      What was the Federal auto accident record at the old intersection? There are stat’s on that. And I will gamble that the number of accidents was very small. Safety will not be improved, this is just a feel good project.
      Have at it, spend it all. Remember, when it goes over budget, George, the City will always take your very generous cash donation to help defer the cost.


      1. So, I ask you, what are you doing to the positive benefit of Edmonds? I am not challenging the fact that projects need to be managed, nor am I challenging the fact that the City needs to be held accountable. I am challenging the fact that doing nothing is certainly a course of action, but one that generally ends up costing more. Why does the City of Edmonds hit budget over-runs – can blame be placed on the City Staff, sure, can blame be placed on City Council – sure – delays, more delays, more stalling, continued stalling, and vetting a project for four years costs money. I don’t need to throw causal analysis or finance models out there to prove that time is money – at least my time costs money, and I would argue yours does too.

        In your professional life – do you assume that your customers should do nothing? Analogies are wonderful, and hyperbole is a great shield and weapon, but honestly, does a run down strip mall and traffic delays make you feel like investing? Does it increase the value of your property? Is it the right image you want to present? I argue that there are opportunties to turn aging facilities, with public and private investment into communities that serve both economic and residential needs (see the downtown Park Forest, Illinois example, the Winter Park Florida example – both very nice communities with grey field issues) Aging strip malls and the corresponding infrastructure are an ongoing issue – not just in the Hamlet of Edmonds, but that is what I am concerned about the most. Revitalizing Five Corners is important to me, and I am going to argue to get that project moving forward.

        Has council created the environment for Public Private Partnership?

        As far as feel good projects – all projects are feel good projects. Horse and buggies worked fine on dirt roads – I wonder if the first paved street drew as much ire.

        There are statistics that support everything – I tend to follow Mark Twain, “Always acknowledge a fault, this will throw those in authority off gaurd, and allow you to commit more”. There is a fault with every plan, and I make a living off of finding them, but the crux is not to find the fault and piss and moan, it is to find the fault and fix it – and most symptoms are not cured by doing nothing.


      2. Now as to specifics, as to what I would do to manage the project more effectively –

        1. Request that the contractor provide certified payrolls with every project request for payment, and have staff (accounting preferably) review the invoicing and applied audited overheads for billing accuracy, and for costs that are not associated with the project or allowed by the contract (i.e. some A/E and Design Build firms will charge for administrative time – depending on their time capture system and their audited overhead roles like Project Admin and Project Controller should not be billed). Another area that happens are project time transfers (in other words, one bill may have time on it, but internally, the contractor transfers time after the fact) so not only certified payroll, but a monthly data dump from the timekeeping system should foot to the total number of hours billed on the project. (Once again, if this is a lump sum project, it kind of eliminates your ability to audit, but it also gives the City a hell of alot of leverage when the contractor claims scope creep).

        2. Request an Earned Value Curve calculation, and contractors percent complete with every invoice, and a Statement of Work and Statement of Project Cost.

        3. I would conduct monthly project reviews (internally) with the Finance Director leading = that details out the project percent complete (based on the contractors percentage) compared to the Engineering Departments percentage and see where the two split based on projected cost and perceived (reported) percent complete. ( I would imagine they are doing this for projects over a certain dollar threshhold).

        4. I would highlight the areas that are slipping at the end of each project review, and make those public record. The discussion and issues are easier to alleviate when they are handled at the start of the issues. Typically, those come down to scope creep, weather delays, resource issues (the lack of resources), and material costs. You can outline those pretty quickly. I have not read the contract vehicle, so I do not know what the exposure to the City is for any of these over-runs.

        Request that the DB firm and Construction Mgmt firm present monthly at the Council, in conjunction with the Finance Department review of project progress. First order of business, what is going to cost more money, and why.

        I don’t know how the City of Edmonds handles it, I don’t know what the contract vehicle reads, but I do know that I am in favor of the project AND responsible fiscal management of funds once committed.


  8. ………Pretty expensive project to “manage traffic from the high school to Five corners”………what is that 5 blocks?………….As I have stated before, the citizens (you know, the “folks”) of Edmonds did not just fall off the turnip truck……..and neither have the Feds in regards to their NEED grants. I suspect that some of the International District grants were for helping to “manage traffic” also. …….Five Corners is what it is… of a MAJOR highway. Money would be better spent doing away with the 99 corridor


  9. I agree – money should be spent as well on the 99 corridor. Finally, something we can agree on. I do not think that the turnip truck stopped in Edmonds, nor do I question the intelligence of the opponents to this project. So let’s push for a major rehabilitation and street scape project for Highway 99 in conjunction with 212th and 76th, the Five Corners project, and Sunset Avenue.

    That way, we actually create a vibrant 99 that welcomes big box or medium sized large tax base companies to come in and provide jobs to Edmonds residents, to provide tax base to Edmonds residents, and create a difference between Lynnwood (which is doing a pretty good job with the recent development on 196th), Mountlake Terrace, and other surrounding areas.

    Shoreline has done a very nice job along 99 – so Ms. Ryder, I will stand in support with you at the next council meeting to ask for a comprehensive and complete 99 corridor Streetscape project. That should only cost in the tens of millions of dollars, but if we can agree that it is necessary to preserve the Edmonds that we both love, then I think it is money well spent.


    1. George,
      There is no point in developing “a tax base”, when all you want to do is spend it, as fast as it rolls in. That is a never ending cycle, which only serves to drain the pocket of taxpayers, stifle business and business growth (proven facts).
      Highway 99, has always been Highway 99, putting pretty lights, a few trees and new sidewalks will not change what it is.
      Millions for this, 10’s of millions for that, an amazing concept. But with a $17 Trillion dollar debt, I think your philosophical point of view has been proven to be a total and utter… failure.
      The people who live in the five corners area, which is closer than the “bowlers” should then bear the brunt of the $10’s of millions you propose, do to the fact they are closer and will receive a more direct benefit, than residents residing down in “the bowl”. lol
      George, why don’t you tell us what your next massive expenditure/ “public benefit” project will be, it seems you can spend us into the grave, so for humor, let’s her it.


      1. The next project that I believe that will save the city of Edmonds millions is to vote. That will not cost the public anything, but it will change the complexion of how and when decisions are made.

        I do not disagree that certain communities should bear the brunt of certain investments. So let’s take all of the tax revenues and segment them by neighborhood, and create 20 different tax based HOA’s and CDD funds, and see where the majority of the funds get invested.


  10. Three years ago, when this project was being considered, I and many other citizens of Edmonds voiced their concern that the need being presented to the council was a contrived need. I also pointed out that the de-emphasis on actual city cost as presented to the decision-makers was misleading at best. However, with public comment (both for and against) presented and after council debate, a decision was made by council to proceed. With decision made, my interest now is that the project is properly managed not just by the staff level, but by the council as well. The council must continue to press for a full (and understandable) accounting of expected/projected expenses and frequent progress reports, which should be continually weighed against real need. Otherwise, we may end up with another Haines Wharf (which, I believe, was also an unneeded project).


    1. Jim, great point – as a proponent for the project, it increases the emphasis on delivering the project on time and on budget. Success begats success, and public trust will be greatly increased by both effective project management and transparent project costs when there are over-runs or issues. Great comment.


  11. Tere Ryder,
    Point of Clarification “Money would be better spent doing away with the 99 corridor” Are you intending to say that we need to get rid of the Hwy99 corridor?

    Jim, Tere, George and Ken,
    Highway 99 improvements are already in the Strategic Action Plan.
    Item 54 Highway 99
    Create transportation improvement program and project for Highway 99 to improve traffic flow, transit connections, pedestrian streetscape and to encourage mixed use project developments similar to what has been recently completed in Shoreline and is planned in Everett and Lynnwood.
    Item 22: Highway 99 International District
    Create a plan and design theme for this unique area, initiate promotional events and activities, and recruit additional anchors or destination stores.

    Highway 99 is also included in 10 other items including 8: Marketing , 10: Promotion, 25: Design, 66a3: Development regulations, and 11: Organization.

    With all Strategic Action Plan items I seek champions for these items. Only through your involvement will we see change.

    The Strategic Action Plan is made up of items where the city may not be the primary lead or champion on every item. A champion is anyone that is leading a particular item. For an updated Strategic Action Plan Actions see:
    To see the full Strategic Action Plan as apporved on April 2nd 2013.


  12. I think there may be confusion related to how this works.

    The City’s Comprehensive Transportation Plan dated November, 2009 mentions a cost of $1,910,100 to install a single-lane roundabout at 212th Street SW/84th Avenue W. I believe $370,000 of this related to design/planning to be done during 2014 and $1,540,000 of this related to construction to be done in 2015.

    I will focus on the estimated construction costs of $1,540,000 in 2015. By pushing construction forward a year, shouldn’t the 2014 construction amount benefit from the time value of money, resulting in a lower, not higher cost?

    Why would something expected to be done in 2015 be priced in 2009 dollars? Isn’t it prudent to factor inflation into budgets and/or projections of future years?

    Nathan – just saw your above post on Strategic Action Plan….thanks for the great info, I’ll check it out.


  13. This ’round-about’ (perfect name for all the time and money spent on discussions) is just so silly. I have lived in the Edmonds area for over 50 years and have never seen nor experienced an accident at 5-corners.
    Let’s wait and see how many accidents happen within the first year of the completion of this project. Should be a big bonus for local auto body repair shops.
    What a waste of Federal grant funds that could be used in more positive civic endeavors like feeding the poor hungry homeless, educating young students to move forward in their lives, construction of low income apartments/housing.


  14. 99 has been DONE many, many times, all the way, north and south……So, the strategic plan is nothing new………..I’ve been around for a long time to see that unfold many times…….the hoopla, the events, the new businesses, etc. lots of new construction

    I would like to add that when the name “International District” was originally used in Seattle, many, many people in that area were offended and many STILL ARE because ALL the nationalities in that area of Seattle were basically thrown into one pot……The same seems to have happened here….

    .Different nationalities are not ALL the same…So I guess we have Edmonds, and then we have the International DISTRICT…… I’m sorry but I find that offensive…….Is there some kind of line drawn in the sand……….I would like to see ALL of Edmonds be INTERNATIONAL and DIVERSE. That would be my hope and wish for this city. ……

    Yes, can we use these NEED grants to lift ALL up…….low income housing built (not just at Five Corners, 99, etc……that B Corporation thing), feeding the poor, education, etc, not making a select few wealthy from development, construction, real estate, projects ad nauseum, etc……..That is WHY the citizens of Edmonds don’t trust the government here and it’s so obvious

    and some people here with their comments are not funny at all…….


  15. The Five Corners Loop-de-Loop is another City Council boondoggle gone Wild….Wahoo…$pending money that is not yours is so much fun…and irresponsible. Next thing we will hear about is the need for Levies to “maintain” all of these boondoggles.

    Round and Round, Round-about, Loop-da-Loop, Unicorns, Rainbows, Circuitous logic, Circular Firing Squad…

    All with unintended consequences…


  16. Another example how to spend money on a project that is not needed or wanted. Now you know why people have such disdain for the elected officials who love to spend our money.


  17. I’ll make an attempt to put together a list of Five Corners Roundabout project expenses.

    My attempt may not be accurate, so hopefully somebody from the City will correct me, and/or provide a comprehensive accurate list of the related expenses:

    Costs to Date?:

    David Evans – engineering support services: $389,973
    Universal Field Services – (part of David Evans): $ 78,000
    ROW Acquisitions and Temporary Construction Easements: $179,000
    Misc Staff Time – ROW Costs: $ 8,000

    Projected Costs still to come?:

    Construction Contract awarded: Marshbank Construction: $2,934,597
    Contingency related to Construction Contract: $293,500

    Construction Management:
    David Evans – Supplemental Agreement just approved: $ 50,227
    WH Pacific : $194,856
    City Staff: $100,000
    Contingency related to Construction Management: $ 50,000
    Public Art (Maybe this should be $25,000??) $ 5,716

    TOTAL Estimated Costs $4,283,869

    I believe the City has been awarded the following Grants:

    FHWA/CMAQ $ 463,000
    Puget Sound Regional Council $1,936,500
    TOTAL Grants $2,399,500

    ESTIMATED City Funds to be used: $1,884,369

    Hopefully the above is somewhat in the ballpark. The estimated City Funds to be used of $1,884,369 far exceed $340,000 and/or 13.5% of the job. I do not know if Council would have approved this project had it known up front that this much in City Funds would be used, especially with so many needs for street repair, etc.

    I believe an argument has been made that a significant amount of these extra costs are related to underground utilities that City staff decided to replace concurrently with the roundabout project. I do not why this utility work was not known and included in the original discussion. I also do not know if such utility work would have been eligible for Grant funding had it been included in the process from the beginning.

    In addition, I do not know how much useful life the related utilities have and how much utility we are losing by replacing them possibly earlier than necessary. Lastly, I do not know where this utility replacement ranked in relation to other city needs.


  18. Thanks Ken for the cost break down. Now Edmonds residents can read and weep. Every council member should be held personally responsible.


  19. You are very welcome Ron -I hope my information is fairly accurate.

    I don’t think that every current Councilmember is responsible- I believe Councilmember Petso has opposed this since the beginning and Councilmember Bloom has opposed since she has been in office. I think Councilmembers Frailey-Monillas and Johnson have expressed some mild opposition and Councilmember Meseros is too new to have much responsibility related to the project.


  20. Ken, I appreciate the cost breakdown as well. Now, the important item to focus on is what will happen, not what has happened. I believe that the Council has passed a budget, and overruns and public oversight of the project needs to be high, and scrutiny needs to be paid to how the project progresses on both schedule and budget. Responsible use of City funds is in the eye of the beholder, and I think I know where we both stand on either side of the use of these funds!

    On the DCF and TVM argument – I run into this all of the time – all things being equal, DCF modeling and TVM works – all things being equal. In other words, if every assumption that was made in 2009 for the the cost of the project was 90% correct, then time value of money would hold true – unfortunately, that is hardly the case. It happens in both public and private projects. I built a model for a large railroad that was a repair or replace model – it took into account 7 different variables – all the way from the cost of labor, to the cost of oil, to the cost of concrete, to the cost of regional commodities – and attempted to give a ten year useful repair or replace model (it is actually a published model) – and even those 7 factors were dependent upon the person doing the data, looking at the costs, and the initial assumptions made – all time value of money calculations fail in one way or another – for instance, I believe it is a fallacy to assume that the City is going to save $108,000 in staff costs by not doing this project.I also can only go off of what Councilperson Buckshnis said with the utilities, that they were included, and are a substantial portion, and what Phil Williams says is the additional cost. I don’t think he has any ulterior motive but to do the best for the City he works with – in a fair and transparent way. I don’t think he is lining his pockets, and if he wanted a job with a Private PE A/E Firm, he probably could quit tomorrow and go to HDR, CH2M, or any of them – but I doubt that is going to happen. I do know that most construction cost indices agree that a period of heavy inflation is coming due to increasing pressure from smaller projects from smaller municipalities that place upward demand on contractors and pricing. I do know that most indices agree that the period of 2006 through now has remained fairly low, after dramatic downward or level movement, but that should be increasing dramatically. The question always comes – who is right?

    I use the analogy for my clients of thanksgiving dinner – the first one – a huge capital outlay in nice dishes, new table linens, not to mention the standard costs of buying the food, (and at my house – the wine and beer) – every year after that there is a cost associated, not as high, and many people grant and fund by bringing other items, and occassionally you have to spend extra money because your Aunt stole or dropped your favorite dish, etc – it does not change that the cost of turkey fluctuates, and the wine you love increases or decreases, but you have Thanksgiving Dinner – it includes both Capital Outlays (that are significant at the start and decrease over time for that dinner), you have routine costs (that fluctuate wildly based on bird flu, turkey farms in Arkansas, and milk prices), and you, to some degree do the best you can to predict the cost of both – but you don’t cancel Thanksgiving because of those variables.

    In a much larger sense, the City is faced with setting the table for a large number of participants at every Thanksgiving Dinner (replace thanksgiving dinner with Project) – they are faced with the huge capital outlay, and the fluctuating costs – and they also are well aware that it is going to come up every year – they do their best to predict the outcome – but they still have to set the table –

    I know you understand this – but I want to voice the opportunity cost model as more important than the sunk cost model – what is the cost of delaying improvements to Five Corners – is it preventing other high profile investment projects from being completed, is it sinking funds or refusing grants that other cities will take advantage of, is it including both repair and replace components, are there other aesthetic variables being introduced, is it providing a benefit to the greater community, is it being managed and scheduled effectively, is it something that will have to happen eventually, etc etc etc


    1. Of course, one should always ask, is a big Thanksgiving dinner (roundabout) really needed in the first place when your not doing other things that should be paid for first. Is it maybe more important to maintain the house (roads) the dinner will be served in? I think about this every day that I dodge a handful of potholes as I leave my little neighborhood.

      Let’s just hope that papa (staff) doesn’t attempt to shield mama (council) from having to understand all the costs by obfuscating where the money is going or will go.


  21. Yada yada yada………quite a circuitous rhetoric route……..Some people think that works…….those of us that didn’t FALL OFF THE TURNIP TRUCK know better…..It’s quite simple……kind of like the everything I know I learned in grade school…..Interesting the mention of HDR………..

    Did you say you were from Chicago, via, Florida and Edmonds? My research (and I’ve been researching history here with a group back to 1976) has shown that Edmonds has lots of ties to Chicago by the way. …….lots of ties to California also, Oregon, etc.

    I believe it was the National Real Estate Association located in Chicago that ran a full page add in their magazine/journal in regards to how much they have helped elect in our little tiny 39,000 citizen town……..This is a full page article on how much they have helped our little town…. and getting a person elected…….This is one (of many) reasons a lot of the people here do not trust the government here……

    I think there are a least a few members on our City Council that have done an EXCEPTIONAL job of REPRESENTING the CITIZENS our our little 39,000 citizen town.

    The government here works for US, not the other way around……


    1. link to above mentioned article:

      I also remember an article and picture in the Master Builders Association

      When certain things seem to follow a certain path, one can wonder if there are conflicts of interest involved, particularily when actual NEEDED (safe streets and sidewalks) projects are left undone or for last (or not at all, as in the case of where Ms. Bonano was killed at a non marked cross walk), only after many, many complaints, and citizens INPUT means very little. It would seem to me that the govt. and staff here think things run the other way around…..we work for them….it’s THEY WORK FOR US…..”US” also stands for United States….we have a State constitution and the Federal Constitution


  22. Yes, I don’t want any of those 70,000 (counted recently) gang members from the windy city finding their way to Edmonds. Not even funny to joke about. You really do think people here fell off of a turnip truck…….Most people want to be safe and KNOW that their children are safe……You are the first person I have heard joking about the subject. There is nothing funny about it


  23. I stole this, but I tend to believe in these tenants to building a vibrant community – and as far as where I am from – St. Johns, Florida, Saint Augustine, Florida, and the Bowmanville District of Chicago – but I choose to live and thrive in Edmonds. All small towns (or enclaves of larger towns), all communities, all challenged with HOW to provide the things below. To say that I don’t care about Edmonds is ridiculous – the only reason I actually am paying attention is because I do care – and want to find a way to promote the items below – as a community with both public and private investment.

    •Prepare and connect residents to family supporting jobs that provide career and wage advancement.

    •Help families save now and in the future to achieve their goals.

    •Provide children and families with resources and support to succeed in school.

    •Develop vacant and underutilized land into community-prioritized commercial, retail, arts/cultural uses and mixed-income housing.

    •Create an attractive, walkable neighborhood with great parks, community gathering spaces and public art that is easily accessible by bike and public transit.

    •Create a vibrant cultural and economic business district that provides affordable goods and services, employs local entrepreneurs and is supported by active community members.

    •Improve children and families’ health and wellness in homes, schools and the neighborhood.

    •Provide support, training and a range of opportunities for all residents of all ages to shape the neighborhood’s future

    Speaking of economic development, I need to get back to work.


  24. marshbamk construction there a good union contractor have a great track record and will get the job done with no surprises. they came in over the engineers estimate thats ok the engineers probably missed something in the cost . My guess is that the job should go pretty good.


  25. Yes, I believe you care, Mr. Bennett…..I remembered that you mentioned that you had children. Welcome to this great little town by the sea, mountains, sky, train, parks, creeks, birds, etc. We are so lucky to live here, wouldn’t you agree. I constantly walk here all over, and just keep thinking WOW! how lucky we are!…’s ALL right here where we are, right where we stand….EVERYTHING


  26. Mr Brackett incorporated as a first class city, in 1890, with the inclusion of his two oxen Bolivar and Issac. I would hope that those that live in our community will honor Mr Bracketts legacy when he declared this the City of Edmonds.

    I do have pride in this community on having that home town feel and being the friendliest in the northwest.


  27. There’s obviously some who support a roundabout at Five Corners and others, like me, who oppose this project. The decision has been made, so there’s no point in continuing to talk about the pros and cons of it. But there are a few issues with it that I’d like to highlight, and suggestions for preventing a repeat of them.

    1) Others have correctly mentioned that a significant contributor to the increase in cost of the project is the decision to replace utilities and pipes while the area is dug up. That makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is to prematurely end the life span of those assets. I suggest that when a project does not have any urgency, like this roundabout, that the project be scheduled to coincide with the normal schedule for replacing any infrastructure in the area of the new project. Obviously if the replacement schedule is in the distant future, the new project should be undertaken without prematurely replacing existing infrastructure.

    2) Some city councilmembers wanted more time to deliberate the approval of the construction contract. They were discouraged from taking that additional time because the contract needed to be immediately issued in order to get the work completed before winter. Since “time was of the essence” why wasn’t the contract brought to council much earlier. Last year the plan was to complete the project in 2013; delays with right-of-way acquisitions made that impossible, so the entire project was rightfully postponed to 2014. It seems like that postponement should have provided more than enough time to get thru the bid process sooner than what occurred. I suggest that council formulate a policy that specifies the amount of time they require, under normal circumstances, to deliberate the approval of major contracts.

    3) The vote of a very new councilmember caused the contract to be approved. His relatively little experience with the issue, and the fact that he was the only councilmember who did not state the reason for voting the way that he did, are perhaps indicators that he should have been counseled to abstain from voting. Historically, councilmembers not having full knowledge of a topic have chosen to abstain from voting. That should be part of any training given to new councilmembers.


    1. Ron, I agree with points one and two – scheduling capital improvements within useful life span of prior projects makes good fiscal sense (in most cases) and I like the idea of coming up with a policy or understanding that after a set amount of Q&A, that it should come to an up or down vote. (I am a firm believer in saying No or Yes, and moving a project down the list of priorities – just because it does not get accepted this year, does not mean it will not come up next year and the year after and the year after – as long as the public is aware that a design or idea that was proposed five years ago is not going to cost the same as it would have five years ago).

      As far as the third point, the council vetted the 7th member, and I suppose, picked him because of his knowledge. I cannot see that as an issue, but as a matter of interest, did he abstain from Sunset?


    2. As I was taking my daily walk with my dogs (when I do most of my thinking – ha!), I thought about the 5-corners project and realized that it seems the city’s process is backwards. Now here’s your post with essentially the same thought. My perception is, the staff searches for possible grants, finds something that might fit into the grant language, invents a need, and then after project approval says “oh, we should replace infrastructure while we’re in there.” What was the “end of life” of these utilities; did anyone (Mayor/Council) ask that; what is the business case for replacing these utilities, etc.? Was the initial investment made many years ago assuming they would last a certain number of years, and now we are arbitrarily terminating them early to justify a project that might be a marginal need? Why not put these “good ideas” into a holding pattern, then when we really need to dig up the sewer/ storm water/ etc. we include these “good ideas” when they would best benefit (financially) the community?

      Actually, the key here is need AND priority. If deemed “needed” (which I don’t believe a roundabout at 5-corners is, but assume it is), then how does this project rank in priority with the many other things that “need” to be done? Are we biasing our decisions based on the contrived requirement that “we have a grant?” Where could we (the city) use these millions of dollars of city (yes, city not federal) money on higher priority projects?


  28. Excellent Post Ron. Do you know if the Mayor could have voted to break this tie if Councilmember Mesaros had abstained? I don’t think so under RCW 35a.12.120, but I am not sure.

    Nathan – History discusses that the community’s population fell two short of the three hundred residents required to incorporate. Legend has it that the townspeople simply listed Bollivar Brackett and Bill Brackett among the Edmonds residents whose names appeared in the census count. The two did indeed live in the community, but neither was truly eligible to participate in such an undertaking, for Bollivar was a bull and Bill a cattle dog owned by town founder George Brackett…..

    Neither the dog or the bull were eligible to participate . . .can’t say I’m surprised! That incorporation coupled with the related original plat of Edmonds has had a huge impact on my life.


  29. Council person Meseros stated that he felt he was “up to speed” on the project since he followed it as a citizen before his appointment to the Council and had the packet before him.
    He was not the reason for passage. 3 other Council persons joined in and that is a majority.
    I disagree with the decision myself, but the new Council person being the “cause” of the contract approval just isn’t fair. It makes some very unfair assumptions about the new Council person.


  30. ken interesting list can you tell me what that contingency related to construction contract $293.500 what is that, anybody know


  31. Michael:
    It is classified as a “Management Reserve” – to cover any unexpected costs encountered during construction. It is typical to have a 10% contingency reserve.


  32. As I remember, there is a 10% override the contractor can charge for equipment on any Federal money job, for new equipment, purchased or not by the contractor?
    The contract needs to hit a certain budget, before this is applicable.
    Is this that type of contract?
    It has been a long time since I have been around this stuff, so I am not 100% sure that is accurate, that’s why I am asking.


  33. Brent:
    I don’t know the answer to your question. I only know that there’s $293,500 (10%) set aside for staff to use to cover unforeseen expenses.


    1. Ron,

      Do they post awarded bids to the Council website – I was looking for that as well, but don’t know the ins and outs of where the contracts get posted, etc. I looked, and did not find it, just the outline – and the contingency you describe (I wonder if there is a contingency built into the Construction contract as well), and am interested in learning as much about the City process as I can – you and Ken have been extremely helpful with questions of this nature.


  34. George:
    I am not aware of that kind of info being on the city’s website, but I could be wrong. Perhaps Ken will also respond.


  35. Sorry – I’m swamped. Ron – thanks for answering Mike’s question about the 10% contingency. I think it is a general contingency amount related specifically to the $2,934,597 Construction Contract. There is another $50,000 contingency amount in the Construction Management category.

    George – I just did a very quick search on line for the awarded bid and struck out. I’d recommend emailing Bertrand Hauss to request.
    Email: [email protected]

    Have to run – hope everyone has a great day!


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