OLYMPIA - Repairing damage from last month's arson at Olympia's new City Hall may cost as much as $3 million and delay the facility's opening by two or three months, city officials said Tuesday.
The building now is scheduled to open no later than May, said Jay Burney, assistant city manager for special projects. Employees had planned to move into the building in January, and it was set to open to the public about Feb. 1.
“I was disappointed and shocked by the scope and the scale of the damage,” Mayor Doug Mah said.
Burney said the city’s insurance carrier will cover the estimated $2.5 million to $3 million in damage, but the city will have to pay a $35,000 deductible, which will come out of the project’s contingency fund. The project’s total cost is $35.6 million.
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The fire early on the morning of July 8 caused extensive smoke and soot damage, particularly on the first and second floors. Smoke billowed throughout the building through utility conduits, elevator shafts and stairwells.
Repairing damage on the first two floors is complex, according to the city, because it requires assessing and repairing damage to utility conduits, cabling, computer-run systems and unsealed concrete and drywall.
For example, soot-covered wires may be able to be cleaned with a damp cloth. But that could void the warranty, meaning that replacing the wiring might be preferable.
“We don’t have a final verdict,” Burney said.
The upper two floors were not as badly damaged. The light soot has been cleaned, and regular construction has resumed there. Work also continues on street and sidewalk improvements outside the building, which the city said will be wrapped up Aug. 13. A bike lane will be striped on two blocks of Fourth Avenue from Jefferson Street to Chestnut Street, created by reducing the three motor vehicle lanes to two.
Joshua A. Stacy, a 20-year-old transient sex offender, pleaded not guilty last week to two counts of second-degree arson and two counts of second-degree burglary for starting the fire and an earlier one at a construction trailer on the site July 7.
A trial is scheduled for the week of Sept. 20. Stacy was ordered held with bail set at $50,000.
According to charging documents, the suspect entered the City Hall site through an unsecured exterior door, spray-painted words in a hallway and set the contents of a room on fire, apparently using camp fuel.
Police arrested Stacy a day after the fire. They said they were led to him by a tracking device he is required to wear because he is a transient Level 3 sex offender. Records showed he had been in the area of the construction site or the adjacent alley multiple times during the arsons and burglaries.
Private security guards now patrol the site after construction hours.
Burney said the building’s contractor, Hoffman Construction, and the insurance carrier have been cooperative, and there are no disputes.
Mah, shocked, said he didn’t know what damage estimate to expect.
“In many ways I’m outraged by what is really a senseless crime, an attack on our community, and what is going to be a great community asset for generations,” Mah said. “It’s just mind-numbing to think that an individual – one individual – for a very brief period of time can create so much havoc.”
Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869 firstname.lastname@example.org