Olympia is seeking a contractor to demolish a downtown building, a project that was abandoned by the military after labor unions objected.
The 5555th Engineer Brigade from Joint Base Lewis-McChord had agreed to tear down the city-owned building at 505 Fourth Ave. W. as part of a training exercise — and at no cost to Olympia taxpayers.
The estimated cost for demolition by a private contractor is between $75,000 and $125,000, according to the city. Bids will be accepted through March 11.
In early December, the brigade knocked down interior walls and hauled away wood, scrap metal and drywall. However, the brigade ended its involvement when labor unions said the project should have been put out to bid.
An inspector general at JBLM reported that the project violated army rules and regulations, according to a letter obtained through a public records request.
Three weeks after JBLM started demolition, Mayor Stephen Buxbaum sent letters to representatives of Laborers Union Local 252 and International Union of Operating Engineers Local 612. The mayor asked the unions to waive a provision in Army Regulation 360-1 that addresses “competition with commercial entities.”
The rule states that without a waiver from local labor unions, U.S. Army resources cannot go toward civilian activities “if commercial resources and services available in the public domain could reasonably provide such support.”
The waiver was denied. In one response to the mayor, IOUE Local 612 business manager Ernest Evans wrote that the brigade’s demolition should not have happened in the first place.
Local 612’s membership includes 134 Olympia residents, Evans wrote, adding that some of the members are out of work and “would not support waiving an opportunity to perform work in the very city they call home.”
At the Olympia City Council meeting Tuesday, city officials reiterated that JBLM chose to end all involvement with the demolition.
“It was JBLM’s decision to discontinue the training exercise,” said Jay Burney, assistant city manager. “We are very thankful for the work they did do. They did so much in a short period of time.”
An adjacent city-owned building at 529 Fourth Ave. W. also will be torn down. Burney said the goal is to have both buildings down by the summer.
The two properties are located across from the Bayview Thriftway in the shadow of the nine-story Capitol Center Building, which is privately owned and is not slated for demolition.