Possible litigation hangs over Sequim

The city of Sequim might have a lawsuit on its hands over construction of a section of the Olympic Discovery Trail.

At issue is a section of the trail that runs between Whitefeather Way and the eastern city limits.

According to city engineer and interim public works director William Bullock, the section, which was completed in June 2007, cost about $250,000. Although Lakeside Industries was responsible for the project's construction, it was designed, engineered, overseen and inspected by a company called Parametrix. Bullock said for a small community like Sequim, it's usually easier to contract with multifaceted agencies such as Parametrix rather than hiring different companies for different aspects of the project. Sequim was only responsible for securing the right of way, which was donated by Wayne Enterprises.

"The city was really out of view," Bullock said.

In December, following a particularly heavy rain season, it was discovered that at several points along the trail the ground appeared to be eroding or sliding, creating gullies. Since December, Bullock says the state of the trail has worsened.

"I don't think it will last another winter," Bullock said, but he added that the paved trail was not dangerous and still could be used.

The question is what caused the erosion? Was it poor workmanship by Lakeside or are Parametrix's designs and engineering at fault? In a May 8 letter to Bullock, Parametrix managing principal Peter Battuello maintains that final erosion control was added to the site after Parametrix completed its on-site work and that its placement was "directed by the city in a manner that was inconsistent with both the contract specifications and Parametrix's written recommendations." That means, according to Parametrix, Lakeside installed the erosion control incorrectly as directed by the city of Sequim. According to Bullock, if it were a workmanship issue, why didn't it come up during Parametrix's on-site inspections?

The city has hired Geo Engineers to determine what is causing the erosion and who is responsible. Once Geo Engineers reaches a conclusion, the city can move forward, which could mean going after one of the two companies in court. Bullock, however, sees litigation as a last resort.

"In my opinion, very rarely does this get to a litigation issue," Bullock said.

The trail, Bullock said, will have to be repaired during this year's building season or there will be even more damage and someone - Parametrix or Lakeside - eventually will have to pay for the repairs.

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