Clallam County commissioners expressed sticker shock Monday over a proposed $974,000 contract with a Seattle-based consultant to oversee construction of the Carlsborg sewer.
Board chairman Mike Chapman said he would not support the agreement with Gray & Osborne Inc., saying he was “a little suspicious” of the amount.
“I’m not going to sign this contract,” Chapman said.
Commissioners directed staff to analyze the cost of managing sewer construction with county employees. A comparison of those costs versus the price of an outside consultant will be discussed in a future work session.
“I can’t justify these costs,” Chapman said. “I don’t care what the industry standards are. That’s highway robbery of the taxpayer.”
Public Works Administrative Director Bob Martin recommended the contract with Gray & Osborne, which has worked for Clallam County in the past.
Martin said the orginal plan was to share construction management with a consultant, but engineers in the road department have raised concerns about staff availability.
“They are going to be pretty involved in other county projects this year, so the survey staff may not be available to us,” Martin said.
“Some of the inspection staff that we were proposing to use also may not be available to us.”
The amount of money budgeted for construction management did not change with the new recommendation, Martin said.
“Instead of doing part of it in-house and part of it with the consultant, we’re doing more of it with the consultant and less of it in-house is what this boils down to,” Martin said.
Gray & Osborne had identified local subcontractors for the one-year project, including a surveyor and inspector, Martin added.
Commissioners opened seven bids last week for construction of the long-planned sewer system.
Pacific Civil & Infrastructure of Federal Way was the low bidder at $9.03 million. The low bid was about $2 million less than the engineer’s estimate.
The seven proposals will be reviewed by staff and the county finance committee before a contract is awarded in mid-April.
“What you’ll see shortly is a re-evaluation of the total project cost that reflects the bid prices, the bid opening that we just had,” Martin told commissioners. “So the total project cost will go down, assuming that the apparent low bidder is the contractor that we award.”
The selected contractor will build a pump station along Carlsborg Road and lay miles of sewer pipe to transport effluent to the treatment plant in Sequim.
Chapman, a 16th-year commissioner who is not seeking another term this year, said Gray & Osborne’s asking price for construction management was “embarrassing.”
“I’m sorry, I’m just not buying it,” Chapman said. “I don’t buy that 10 percent of a project cost is just for construction management.”
Commissioner Bill Peach, a retired forester, said 5 percent or 6 percent for construction management is more common.
First-year Commissioner Mark Ozias asked Martin for more data.
“In order for me to fully understand why you’re pushing this scenario, it would be helpful to know what you compared it to and a little bit more about your decision-making process,” Ozias said.
“I’m not as familiar yet with projects of this scope, but I had a similar thought when I reviewed it over the weekend. It seemed like a huge amount of money.”
Chapman noted that nearly $300,000 of the proposal was for field inspection.
“I’m not going to look the taxpayers in the eye and say ‘Yeah, there was one person, a field inspector on the job for a year, and their firm made almost $300,000 of your taxpayer dollars,’ ” Chapman said.
“You guys can do it. You guys can go to the chamber of commerce. But you don’t think people are going to poke holes in that and it’s going to be a front-page story? That’s insane. And that’s just flat-out ripping off the taxpayer.”
Commissioners suggested that a senior engineer manage sewer construction. A junior engineer could be hired to gain experience on smaller road and trail projects, Chapman said.
Clallam County must complete the sewer system by April 1, 2017, to secure a lower interest rate on the $10 million loan it received from the state Public Works Trust Fund to build it.
The 0.25 percent interest rate would jump to 0.50 percent if construction were delayed.
The county will repay the 30-year loan through its Opportunity Fund for infrastructure projects. The fund is supported by state sales tax revenue.
Rob Ollikainen is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.