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City to pay for bridge work it didn't approve — Former public works director approved work with a letter

Construction workers prepare forms for concrete sidewalks on the new Manette Bridge Wednesday. The Bremerton City Council was caught off guard by a $75,000 bill for barrier improvements, seen in this photo, approved by the former public works director. - Greg Skinner/staff photo
Construction workers prepare forms for concrete sidewalks on the new Manette Bridge Wednesday. The Bremerton City Council was caught off guard by a $75,000 bill for barrier improvements, seen in this photo, approved by the former public works director.
— image credit: Greg Skinner/staff photo

The Bremerton City Council Wednesday considered whether or not to pay $75,000 to the state for pedestrian improvements to the new Manette Bridge, which they say never received council approval.

Many on the council expressed concern for the apparent way the deal was made to build a concrete barrier  between the roadway and the sidewalk, including that the city would pay up to $75,000 for the work.

One councilmember, Adam Brockus, said he’d brought information regarding the addition to a council study session last spring.

According to a presentation given to city council by city engineer Gunnar Firdriksson, during an Oct. 12 study session, the city is responsible to pay. In his summary, Firdriksson wrote that the additional work was agreed to during a March 15 Manette Community Meeting attended by community members, city and state staff as well as elected officials.

The $300,000 barrier wall was not originally included in the final plans because concerns for costs and no specific installation instructions, according to papers in the council member’s packets for Wednesday’s meeting.

On March 18, then Director of Public Works and Utilities Vincent Akhimie sent a letter to the state administrator confirming an “understanding” of proposed changes to the plan between the city and the Washington State Department of Transportation, who is building the bridge.

“The city of Bremerton agrees to fund its portion of the costs of the changes at an amount less than or equal to $75,000,” wrote Akhimie, before noting that the additional expense was not actually in the budget.

The current Director of Public Works Alan Lobdell said the deal should have never been made the way it was. He just learned about the work three weeks ago. Its the job of the people we elect to decide how and what money is spent on, he said.

“In this case they weren’t given the opportunity,” Lobdell said.

Speaking for DOT, Kelly Stowe said a letter from the director of public works was approval enough for the state. It’s equivalent to  the chief engineer, she said.

“That’s all we need to move forward,” she said.

Lobdell described the unanticipated $75,000 expenses’ effect to the public works budget as a “sting” but said the city can absorb the cost in its Arterial Street Fund.  The money would come from several other projects that have been shelved he said.

Lobdell was unable to specifically identify which projects would forfeit funding to cover the barrier wall costs or if those had been approved by council vote.

No member of the city council responded to a request for comment on the issue.

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