OLYMPIA - The City of Olympia has fired its contractor on the project to install a sewer line under Henderson Boulevard, which is months behind schedule and a major traffic headache.
The city terminated its contract with Ro-Con Equipment Specialist of Black Diamond in a Jan. 31 letter obtained by The Olympian.
On Jan. 14, the city sent Ro-Con a letter announcing its intention to end the contract and giving Ro-Con 15 days to respond to its issues. Ro-Con Project Manager Kenneth Copley responded on Jan. 28, the 14th day, saying the contractor was “ready and able to return to work.”
Assistant City Engineer Mark Russell replied on Jan. 31, “Failure to submit a plan until the 14th day allows no time to correct defective work within the 15-day timeframe ... Ro-Con continues to show a pattern of not responding to significant issues in a timely manner.”
City Engineer Fran Eide said Ro-Con has not responded to the Jan. 31 letter. A man who answered the phone at Ro-Con, who would not give his name, declined to comment and hung up on a reporter.
The city hired Active Construction of Tacoma last month to finish the job, and work is under way.
“The city intends to move ahead with the new contractor,” City Manager Steve Hall said.
The construction has reduced traffic on Henderson Boulevard to one northbound lane from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays between North Street and Yelm Highway. When the project began in September, city officials said Henderson Boulevard would open to two-lane traffic by the end of October, and the project would be done by mid-November. Work is now expected to wrap by April 1, Eide said.
“They (Active Construction) are making good progress,” she said. “They’ve been able to deal with any field issues.”
Ro-Con’s contract for the work called for it to be paid $824,993, but it’s unclear how much of that money it will get. Eide said Ro-Con has been paid about $90,000, but the cost of any defective work that has to be fixed will be deducted from that. Ro-Con will also be paid for nondefective work.
It’s also unclear how much Active Construction will be paid; it depends on how much Ro-Con is paid.
In an early December interview, Eide blamed the delays on encountering unmarked utility lines and unexpected masses of underground concrete.
But correspondence between the city and the contractor obtained by The Olympian shows a list of concerns that the city had about the work dating to at least October.
A camera found defective work in the sewer line that Ro-Con laid, according to the city. That resulted in depressions of up to 4 inches. Eide said sediment could gather in those “bellies” and reduce the effectiveness of the pipe.
In Ro-Con’s Jan. 28 letter, Ro-Con Project Manager Kenneth Cobley offered to repair any pipe that doesn’t meet specifications. He also questioned the city’s sewer camera video. “Due to the fact that Ro-Con was not notified or present during the testing, we cannot determine if proper testing procedures were used.”
A Nov. 22 letter from the city to Ro-Con found unsatisfactory traffic control and inadequate signing. Soil compaction wasn’t done properly, asphalt patches were poorly done and work wasn’t being accomplished quickly enough, according to the city.
The letter, titled “Performance Concerns,” cites the contractor’s “lack of experience” to address construction issues.
“The crew did not know how to deal with the sandy soils identified in the specifications that were encountered,” city project manager Tim Richardson wrote to Cobley.
Cobley replied on Jan. 28 that “concerns about experience have been addressed and are unfounded. Your concerns regarding the timeliness of the contract completion have not taken into account the numerous changes that have occurred due to design busts, unmarked utilities, unknown underground obstructions, faulty grade survey, etc.”
Cobley also said “the rate of work has been hampered by the numerous design changes and field adjustment requirements.” He wrote that design and engineering is the city’s responsibility, not Ro-Con’s.
Hall was firm about the city’s position regarding Ro-Con.
“We’ll see what happens with Ro-Con, but we don’t want them back on the job,” he said.
Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869 firstname.lastname@example.org