Power bollards come at high cost for taxpayers

When Kitsap News Group columnist Adele Ferguson raised a red flag about the power bollards for the Port of Bremerton’s marina expansion project in August, it almost went unnoticed except by a few people with intimate knowledge of the project.

A subsequent investigation into the matter by the Bremerton Patriot revealed that the change order is costing taxpayers almost $391,000 for design modifications to the bollards, which are being supplied by a local company instead of the internationally known company specified in the original contract documents.

The change order was approved by Port of Bremerton CEO Ken Atteberry on Feb. 27 and was signed by the project engineer Robert Henry of Art Anderson and Associates of Bremerton and Steven Brannon, president of American Construction Company, which is the general contractor for the project.

In recommending the change order, Henry included a hand-written note about the new bollards from Leader International of Port Orchard, which were substitutes for ones made by Ohio-based The Will-Burt Company.

“Pedestal assembly shall be approved, i.e. listed or labeled, by an accredited electrical product-testing laboratory that has a current registration with the state of Washington, prior to installation. This process shall conform to NEC and WAC requirements, including but not limited to UL 231 power outlets,” Henry wrote.

Those concerns were echoed by Brannon in a letter to Port of Bremerton director of marine facilities Steve Slaton dated March 5.

“...neither ourselves nor our electrical subcontractor, High Mountain, can guarantee that this will occur,” Brannon wrote. “If it does not, then the Port will accept the pedestal assemblies without such listing or label, because the Port is the one directing the change.”

Port Commissioner Mary Ann Huntington said Thursday the new bollards have completed independent laboratory testing and have been accepted by the port’s project engineer of record.

“The testing and certification was part of the price of the bollards,” Huntington said.

The change in power bollards hasn’t put the project behind schedule and Huntington said the contractor still believes it will done on time.

“We are pleased with the progress of the new marina and look forward to it’s opening in the spring,” Huntington said.

During its investigation, the Patriot also obtained correspondence from undisclosed sources between port attorney Gordon Walgren and an attorney representing the Will-Burt Company about the power pedestals and the timing of the change order from an unidentified source.

“On February 2 of this year, after the contract for the expansion was awarded to American Construction Company, Steve Slaton warned the Port Commissioners that certain change orders would require immediate turn-around time,” the letter dated April 9 read.

Slaton requested that Atteberry be given the authority to issue change orders, the letter continued.

“Shortly after the Port granted this authority, a change order was issued to substitute the Ensign II with a new product manufactured by Leader International Company,” it read.

The Will-Burt Company has serious concerns about the change order, it continued.

“First it is our understanding that the newly manufactured Leader product costs up to three times as much as the proven Will-Burt product,” it stated. “Second it seems unlikely that this change required the immediate turn-around mentioned by Mr. Slaton, and that a discussion of the change to a more expensive, unproven product.”

Not only are there cost issues, but the power pedestal is “very likely Leader’s first foray into the marian lighting and electrical utility market,” it continued.

“Further since the product proposed by Leader does not yet exist, there can be no assurance that the product will even be UL certified, let alone approved by the National Fire Protection Association,” it stated.

At the conclusion of the page-and-a-half letter, Will-Burt asked the port commissioners to reconsider their choice “for the good of both the taxpayer and the project.”

In a response dated May 10, port attorney Walgren stated that the port would not reconsider its decision.

“The selection of the Leader International power bollards was made only after careful consideration of all issues,” Walgren wrote. “A major factor determining this selection was a request from the City of Bremerton that our bollards confirm to design of lighting components currently used by the City. Port staff implemented this request in accordance with established guidelines for executing project change orders.”

Huntington said the change in power bollard design was “driven by the desire to establish continuity in architectural ‘look and feel’ between what the city of Bremerton has put into place along the Bremerton boardwalk and the new marina.”

“The city has designed and implemented a unique aesthetic impression on the boardwalk that is very popular; it identifies the place as being unique and the appearance makes a very positive impression,” Huntington said. “The port concluded, with encouragement from the city of Bremerton, that it would be of long-term importance to continue this design throughout the marina. A change order request was placed with American Construction our general contractor, a price was provided and a change order was approved.”

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