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Henderson Boulevard construction to resume after contractor shakeup

In this file photo, traffic rolls slowly  through the stalled construction project on Henderson Boulevard. The project to install new sewer lines had run so far over deadline that the City of Olympia suspended the project.
In this file photo, traffic rolls slowly through the stalled construction project on Henderson Boulevard. The project to install new sewer lines had run so far over deadline that the City of Olympia suspended the project. The Olympian

OLYMPIA Sewer construction will resume Monday on Henderson Boulevard with a new contractor, and the city is in the process of firing its initial contractor after months of delays in the project.

The Olympia City Council took emergency action this week to hire Active Construction to finish the job. Henderson will be reduced to one lane from 7 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays between North Street and Yelm Highway, allowing only northbound traffic.

City officials now expect the project won’t be complete until mid-April, more than five months later than its initial estimates. The work has seriously disrupted traffic on a key southeast Olympia corridor that serves multiple subdivisions and several schools.

“We do understand the impact and apologize for that,” city engineer Fran Eide said.

Residents in the area were notified by hand-delivered letters Friday of the work.

The city suspended work on the project last month after finding multiple issues with the initial contractor, Ro-Con Equipment Specialist of Black Diamond. On Jan. 14, the city gave the contractor 15 days to come up with a plan to fix defective work and complete the project, Eide said. Otherwise the contractor’s work will be terminated. She said it’s unclear what, if anything, Ro-Con will be paid for its work under the $824,993 contract.

Eide said that Ro-Con had not replied to the Jan. 14 letter. Ro-Con representatives did not return a reporter’s phone call seeking comment.

City spokeswoman Cathie Butler said a camera found defective work in the sewer line that Ro-Con laid. That resulted in depressions or “bellies” in the pipe where sediment could gather, Eide said.

A look at correspondence between the city and Ro-Con shows concerns dating to October. A Nov. 22 letter found unsatisfactory traffic control and inadequate signing. Soil compaction wasn’t done properly, asphalt patches were poorly done and work wasn’t being accomplished fast enough.

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 Ro-Con project manager Kenneth Cobley.

In a Nov. 29 reply, Cobley wrote that the site superintendent would be replaced, but did not specifically reply to all the city’s concerns.

Eide said Active Construction crews will begin working on Henderson Boulevard on Monday. It’s unclear how much Active will be paid for its work; it depends on whether Ro-Con corrects items the city considers defective.

Active Construction’s bid for the work was less than $50 higher than Ro-Con’s, Eide said. By choosing Active’s bid, the city did not have to re-bid the job.

Active has done other work for the city, including the current project to widen Harrison Avenue.

The sewer installation needs to be finished by mid-April to tie into a new lift station along Yelm Highway, Eide said, which has also been under heavy construction. Residents in that area are on temporary septic systems, and there is some concern those may fail if they don’t connect to the sewer on schedule. The sewer work is intended to expand the city’s gravity sewer system and reduce reliance on septic systems.

Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869 mbatcheldor@theolympian.com

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