It’s been about a year since the Main Street Phase II project was started — and, as the sun shines and road crews across the state do road work, the project in Montesano is still not finished with both the contractor and the city of Montesano duking it out in letters and correspondence.
However, recent records released to The Vidette as part of a public records request show that the project may be starting up again soon to polish off the problems left behind last fall.
Mayor Ken Estes says the city could have given up and settled the situation months ago. But he gives plenty of credit to Public Works Director Rocky Howard for overseeing the project and sticking with it.
“It’s about good stewardship of public funds and making sure promises are kept and the work is done as contracted,” Estes said.
“We all believe in good stewardship,” Howard said. “This is more than just about me — it’s about the mayor, the council and everyone else here in the city, who believe we should get what we pay for.”
In April, city officials told the Montesano City Council that they had exhausted all of their options in dealing with Main Street contractor South Bay Excavating out of Olympia and planned to tap the required bank-backed performance bond the contractor put up when it first bid on the project. That was the last public update on the project. However, South Bay Excavating has a lawsuit first filed against the city back in December and the city council has been meeting in closed-door executive session to discuss current and pending lawsuits.
The records released to The Vidette show that on May 20, Howard issued a formal letter to Liberty Mutual Surety requesting access to the bond that South Bay Excavating was required to put up before starting the project.
“Project has progressed at an unacceptable rate,” Howard writes. “Contractor has failed to perform as per contract.”
On June 11, Howard also provided notice to the state Transportation Improvement Board, which had provided some of the funding for the project. Howard provided a lengthy amount of documentation to the state board, noting that the city is now working with a “bonding agency” and that City Attorney Dan Glenn had taken “the lead in contacting the contractor and bonding company in an effort to resolve outstanding issues.”
Any correspondence Glenn provided has been withheld by the city as attorney-client communication, which is exempt from disclosure because of the state Public Records Act.
City Administrator Kristy Powell says that the city will move forward with doing repairs of the project, but will not do so until after the Chamber’s popular historic car show set for the third weekend in July. Powell says the city doesn’t want to disrupt the festivities.
The two biggest issues remain a nearly one-inch dip in Main Street from the area the construction project started in front of the Shell station as well as seven of the bulb-outs, which were supposed to have a design of a 15-foot radius so that a street sweeper could get inside of it, but the contractor built them too small.
Howard says that he thinks the contractor dug the street out too far and placed the rock and asphalt down, resulting in the dip. It would take a core drilling sample in the brand-new road to know for sure. Recent rain spells have proven that a significant amount of pooling of water could be seen at the area where the dip in the road can be found. To make sure the city wasn’t being unreasonable with its request to rip out parts of the bulb-outs and re-do the job, Howard had the city’s street sweeper make an attempt to clean out the questionable areas. The sweeper was able to get into two of the seven questionable bulb-outs, even with the design flaw, but couldn’t get into the other areas. Just to get the project done sooner rather than later, the city offered to just have the contractor replace five out of the seven questionable bulb-outs, but Howard says South Bay refused to budge. There is also an issue involving several thousand dollars in costs related to the rock placed underneath Main Street before the paving project began.
The city paid $1.017 million on the project with the original bid for the project at $958,913.
Documents provided to The Vidette as part of a public records request note that South Bay Excavating had filed $172,439 in damage claims and $243,823 in “protests” for a combined claim of $416,262
South Bay is fighting the city over the costs the contractor incurred for reconstruction of curb bulb-outs — although some of that work still needs to be done. There’s also the costs associated with the “common borrow” rock under the street, damage to the lighting system, adjusting the utilities to grade, the costs for the “unsuitable foundation” excavation and the impacts to the contractor’s schedule.
Parametrix, the city’s engineering firm, says in a memo to the city that South Bay is in violation of four terms of its contract, allowing for the contract to be termination. The city may terminate the contract upon the occurrence of any one of the following events:
• If the contractor refuses or fails to prosecute the work with such diligence as will ensure its physical completion with the original physical completion time and any extensions of time, which may have been granted to the contractor by change order or otherwise;
• If the contractor disregards the authority of the contracting agency (in this case, the city of Montesano);
• If the contractor performs work which deviates from the contract and neglects or refuses to correct rejected work; or
• If the contractor otherwise violates in any material way any provisions or requirements of the contract.
Paramatrix is recommending the city fix the two problem spots on its own. For the Main Street Transition to “get a smooth riding surface,” the engineer recommends a contractor grind the asphalt down a bit and then use planing so as not to create a vertical seam that would impact stormwater in the area. Meantime, the “curb returns on the northwest corner of Main Street shall be saw cut, removed and re-poured to achieve a 15-foot minimum radius as shown in the plans. Work will require saw cutting and removal of asphalt pavement, concrete curb and gutter and cement concrete sidewalk to achieve the current radius.” About 30 feet of concrete curb and gutter would need to be replaced.
Despite the city’s decision to move forward with the performance bond process, South Bay Excavating President Jim Clements has continued writing letters to the city, saying they are prepared to fix the issues.
On May 6, Jim Clements provided a 28-day timetable to evaluate the problems, design a solution, sawcut the curbs and sidewalk and deal with the transition in front of the Shell Station by grading and repaving the area.
The city apparently never responded to the specific offer.
Clements wrote back, “I have assumed that you approved our schedule since you did not respond.”
The engineer did write back about the protests Clements had made demanding more pay, stating that no more money would be coming since the protested items were “not protestable.”
On May 20, Clements accused Parametrix Engineer Steve Schmitz of attempting to “paint a picture of South Bay Excavating that, in our opinion, is slanderous and designed to cause additional damage, to the damage you have already caused, to the character of our company.”
Schmitz had written South Bay saying that the contractor “has taken no action to correct deficiencies on the project.”
Clements says that all of the work has been finished except for the protested work.
“We would also like to point out that on several occasions when you spoke with our project manager, you stated that there is not a problem with the transition, in your opinion, but that you are only reacting to the complaint made by a member of the city council to Rocky Howard. We suspect that you have left these important facts out of the letter because the city attorney is writing these letters and you are signing them.”
Clements also says that South Bay fixed one of the bulb-out problems and would have fixed the others back in October, but Schmitz allegedly didn’t tell the contractor in a timely manner when four more bulb-outs were discovered to be defective.
“Had this issue been addressed in October, the replacement of these bulb outs would have occurred in January at the same time we were making other repairs,” Clements writes. “It is the responsibility of the engineer to provide clear direction to the contractor so that the contractor can act swiftly and efficiently in the performance of the work. We find this has not been case on ‘deffective work’ you are now demanding that we remedy immediately.”
Clements also had other complaints about the engineer, alleging, “We intuitively interpret your intended action as misleading and designed to transfer blame and costs from the engineer to the contractor.”
On June 24, as the city was moving forward with contacting the state and the bonding company, Clements wrote to the city, saying that Olympia firm had completed its plans “for the transition repair” and engaged the services of its own engineering firm.
Clements says that South Bay had requested the city’s assistance in designing a fix and the city just suggested removing the pavement. Clements says that the contractor did its job and that there is a smooth surface, blaming the issue on the city’s engineer, Parametrix.
“We were very careful in making certain the meet lines are at the same elevation so that there is not a bump due to difference in height between one surface and the other,” Clements writes. “The transition you are referencing is related to design, which is the responsibility of the engineer.”
Clements noted that the private engineering firm hired by South Bay found errors in the way Parametrix provided designs to South Bay, noting “that the original design failed to provide a transition design by not constructing a vertical curve.”
The situation is not as simple as re-paving, notes Clements, adding that he was submitting several plans to the city to seal with the issue.
On June 26, City Attorney Glenn provided a formal letter to Clements with a “notice of non-compliance with contract and intention to take action.”
“This is formal notification that the city intends to take the action in terms of retaining the services of an independent contractor unless the city receives assurance from the bonding entity, Liberty Mutual Surety, reasonably satisfactory to the city within seven days of this letter that it will choose its own contractor to perform the service in a prompt manner or, alternatively, that South Bay Excavating has committed in a manner reasonably satisfactory to both the city and the Surety Company that it will correct these problems in the manner required within a specific time period acceptable to the city.”
For whatever reason, Clements didn’t receive or didn’t acknowledge Glenn’s letter, noting in a new letter on July 1 that the city had not responded to South Bay’s design suggestions.
“The purpose of this letter is to communicate with you and the city of Montesano that South Bay Excavating intends to make the repairs asked for by you, however, we believe it is in the best interest of all parties to have an engineered solution prior to starting the work. We apologize for the inconvenience of waiting to have this work performed may have caused the citizens of Montesano, however, we are convinced that had we performed the work without adequate engineering we would not have fixed the problem, which would have made the situation much worse. We are committed to completing the work and do so with an understanding that our pursuit of excellence is in the best interest of all parties.”