More than a week into bidding, City of Sequim staffers say that the West Fir Street rehabilitation project could be as much as $1.7 million over budget.
They revealed at the Sequim city council’s Feb. 25 meeting that Gray & Osborne, the city’s consulting engineer firm, estimate final design costs could come in as high as $6.91 million, rather than a previous estimate of $5.24 million.
“Unfortunately, an engineer’s estimate came out significantly higher than we expected,” City Manager Charlie Bush said.
“We still anticipate moving ahead. That’s assuming bids come in close to the engineer’s estimate or under. If it comes in over, we’ll have a significant conversation, and even still we’ll have to have a significant conversation about what that means for the city’s finances.”
The city is looking to reconstruct Fir Street from Sequim Avenue to Fifth Avenue and install new water, sewer, and irrigation piping, curbs and gutters and more.
A few of the major projects in the scope of the plan include moving sidewalks and ball fields 4-5 feet north, adding bike lanes, and installing a traffic light on Fir Street and Fifth Avenue.
Bidding for the project opened on Feb. 18 and it closes March 15.
City staff said the project remains on schedule and construction could begin in April or May and last for up to 18 months.
On Feb. 25, city engineer/assistant public works director Matt Klontz said multiple elements led to the increase, including consultants not accounting for irrigation piping at an estimated $484,800, inaccurate costs for supplies and quantities, and the city adding additional landscaping elements last year when funding seemed below estimates.
“Had we known earlier, we could have sought additional grant funding,” Klontz said.
However, agencies the city received funding from — including the State Department of Transportation — said no additional funding is available at this time.
When asked why irrigation piping wasn’t included in the budgeted costs from the consultants, Klontz said city staffers’ understanding was irrigation was part of the preliminary estimate of $5.24 million, but it wasn’t revealed until the final design.
Between the two final design costs, city staff said roadway construction costs increased about $914,000, sewer $38,000, and water $272,800 from the city’s budgeted cost.
“Until we open bids, we won’t really know where we stand,” Klontz said.
“The good thing is we’re timing it just right for the bidding environment so there’s a lot of competition for projects of this size. Many contractors are interested in it and come March 15 we’ll know where we’ll stand.”
Being years into the project and with millions secured in grants, Bush said the city doesn’t “have the option not to do the project.”
So between now and March 15, city staff will consider proposing funding options to city councilors in late March, including: using general funds up to $750,000, and Real Estate Excise Tax funds; focusing Transportation Benefit District pavement preservation dollars to the same work solely for Fir Street in 2019 and 2020; and/or splitting construction administration costs between consultant and city staff.
Bush told city councilors it’s likely city staff will propose funding from various city accounts.
Klontz said the approximate $1.7 million shortfall includes a 10 percent construction contingency and 10 percent for hiring a consultant for construction management.
He said the construction management estimate of $525,000 could be minimized by splitting costs between a consultant and city staff.
City councilor Ted Miller expressed concern about delaying future road projects for Fir Street.
“The problem is there’s no free lunch,” Miller said. “Something else is not going to get done, or several somethings.”
Councilor Bob Lake said the city is too committed to Fir Street to stop or lessen it.
“I wouldn’t want to take the current project and make it less good, like get rid of the bike lanes and cheapen it,” Lake said.
Bush said city staff are in discussion with Gray & Osborne about the shortfall and possible reimbursement of some costs.
For more information about the West Fir Street Rehabilitation project, call Sequim Public Works at 360-683-4908 or visit www.sequimwa.gov.
Reach Matthew Nash at email@example.com.