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City considers eminent domain for civic center

Thursday, May 29, marked the official breaking of ground where the much anticipated city hall and police station will be. At the ceremony and armed with golden shovels, City Manager Steve Burkett and Sequim Mayor Candace Pratt were among the city officials and project contractors to dig in the dirt. The new Civic Center will have a large plaza intended for events like the public market and an attractive place for people to gather, Burkett said. Along with a totem pole donated by the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, benches, newly planted trees and a water feature are envisioned for the plaza.  - Sequim Gazette photo by Alana Linderoth
Thursday, May 29, marked the official breaking of ground where the much anticipated city hall and police station will be. At the ceremony and armed with golden shovels, City Manager Steve Burkett and Sequim Mayor Candace Pratt were among the city officials and project contractors to dig in the dirt. The new Civic Center will have a large plaza intended for events like the public market and an attractive place for people to gather, Burkett said. Along with a totem pole donated by the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, benches, newly planted trees and a water feature are envisioned for the plaza.
— image credit: Sequim Gazette photo by Alana Linderoth

Two months into construction and the City of Sequim’s Civic Center may see some hiccups with a neighboring property that could delay the project.

The city has been awaiting paperwork to go through on the purchase of a house at 191 W. Spruce St., owned by Steven and Peggy Sutherland of Renton, which will be used for parking once demolished.

City Manager Steve Burkett said the city has had an agreement with the Sutherlands for close to two years to buy their home for $89,000 but the city hasn’t receives approval from the Sutherland’s lending institution.

“They loaned them more than what it’s worth ($140,000) and we’re trying to get them to approve the short sale,” he said.

If the city and bank can’t reach an agreement, then it could go to court, Burkett said, “unless we get an agreement from the bank to go along with the owners’ wishes.”

The city holds a public hearing on whether or not to exercise power of eminent domain, (condemnation), against the property for public use and necessity for the Civic Center at 6 p.m. Monday, June 9, in the Clallam Transit Center, 190 W. Cedar St.

City Attorney Craig Ritchie said the city’s most common use of eminent domain is with building roads.

“If we have someone in the middle of right of way, we don’t go around the house, we need to build a straight road,” he said.

“For most government, (eminent domain) is a last resort. It’s the only way we can guarantee to speed up the process. We’re hoping the financing company signs off.”

So far, Ritchie said he’s getting the message that everything is fine with the eminent domain process and that paperwork has been refiled and that the owners remain in favor.

At the hearing, the public can advocate on whether or not the property should be used for public use or not and from there the city council would decide and if approved, Ritchie would send out a letter requesting immediate ownership.

Project manager David Garlington said they would need the house by the end of the year or it could delay the entirety of the project.

“The subcontractor (Dickson Co. of Tacoma) already has been on site and demolished the other buildings so it’s going to cost more to get them to come back and demolish this little one,” Burkett said. “It was in our plans to have them demolished all at once.”

New total cost

The total cost for the Civic Center has gone up from an earlier estimate, Burkett announced at the Sequim City Council meeting on May 27 as part of a quarterly report on the project.

His initial estimate of $15 million is now $16,074,200 including purchases and work done back to 2011, he said, but the $11.85 million construction budget remains the same.

“We recognized some costs I frankly hadn’t included in past estimates,” he said. “Some of them are costs we already paid for but there’s no new costs for taxpayers.”

Included in the increase, Burkett said, are moving and improving office spaces from the demolished city hall (about $100,000), an increase of $439,000 in sold bonds for the site (from $10 million to $10.439 million), additional revenue from the public safety tax and interest income on bond proceeds (about $275,000 from previous estimates), about $50,000 in unanticipated costs by finding five underground tanks instead of two and accounting issues from previous years worth about $30,000.

“The important issue for me and the council in monitoring the budget for the project is what we are projecting to spend from here forward and what revenues we have available to cover those expenses,” Burkett said.

“We are not increasing the budget and it is still balanced, so we anticipate we will complete the project within the budget. Currently the project cost for 2014 is $10.8 million under the budget adopted by the city council.”

He said the project is past the point where crews likely would find some surprises and use contingency funds.

The city’s design-build contract worth up to $11.85 million with Lydig Construction and Integrus Architecture protects both sides in certain circumstances.

Burkett said if the cost of rebar went up past their estimates then they would be responsible but if the city asked them to install more rebar then the city would be responsible.

Garlington said no contracts have increased and no money than stated originally is needed.

“(The announcement) was an effort to be as open as possible,” he said.

With unexpected issues like the costs for hazardous removal of storage tanks, the project holds a contingency account, which stands at $390,000.

Garlington said hopefully the city can use contingency monies for the plaza and landscaping amenities.

 

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