Bremerton School Board approves partial payment on flawed track project

The Bremerton School District will continue to pay a Gig Harbor construction company for renovation of the Bremerton High School track, despite allegations that the work performed was subpar.

Saying it is legally obligated to do so, the school board Monday unanimously approved a $172,000 payment to Henderson Partners LLC.

"The legal interpretation was that at this particular point, the payment to the contractor had to be made," Superintendent Lester "Flip" Herndon said. "That was a legal obligation we had to the contractor."

It is a partial payment on the project's total bill of $450,695 — the district also made payments to Henderson of $164,000 and $40,000 over the summer — and it contracts Henderson and the district to work together to resolve the problems with the track, according to finance and operations director Wayne Lindberg.

Launched in June, the project intended to shore up and improve a track that was originally installed in the mid-1980s and hadn't been resurfaced since 1995, surpassing its life expectancy.

Funding for the project came from a 2005 school bond valued at $30.5 million.

The planned improvements included a new drainage system for the track and its enclosed playing field; a widening of each of the eight lanes from 40 inches to the state-standard 42; a new sprayed-rubber surface; a reconfiguration of the stairs in the south end zone; and the installation of removable goalposts, among others. The track was closed to the public for about two months during construction.

Problems surfaced late-summer with the football and soccer seasons approaching and the project about 70 percent complete, according to Henderson's John Wall, who was part of the project team.

The outside edge of the outside lane was cut short by 2 inches because the existing asphalt foundation, on which the old track rested and the new track is built, didn't extend far enough to support the new, larger surface.

Because each of the eight lanes on the resurfaced track were intended to be 42 inches — and each lane on the old track was only 40 — the total lane size of the new track would have been 16 inches wider had the foundation been large enough.

"When the (existing) track was cleared, there was no asphalt there," Wall said. "You can't build a house on a foundation that's not correct, that's the best analogy I can draw."

Additionally, Wall said, Henderson followed the contract it was given and built what it was asked to build. The lumps in the track along the south end zone, he explained, weren't a product of faulty resurfacing work; the existing asphalt foundation was cracked and full of divots and the contractors fixed what they could with the budget they were allotted.

"One thing I would like people to know is that we go off the drawings we are given," Wall said. "We did everything we could with what we had."

As the school year approached and with the weather sliding south, the district decided in September to postpone the fixes.

"There were a lot of pressures on us," Lindberg said. "Due to some assumptions by a number of the people who were involved, things like this happen, unfortunately."

Much of the fix-work is weather-dependent, meaning the track may not be tended to until spring or summer when the rain lets up.

Neither the district nor Henderson offered a timetable for the fixes.

"We want to get it done as soon as possible," Wall said.

Lane Dowell, a longtime track and field coach and official who belonged to the five-member bond committee that pitched the bond to voters, feels Bremerton student-athletes are getting a raw deal.

"I hope we can all learn that good communication is the key to success," he said. "Good communication would have prevented a lot of the problems, with people cooperating and working together."

Herndon, who replaced former superintendent Bette Hyde July 1, promised to review the bond in its entirety, saying the district will provide a written report to the board that outlines the project, offering a timeline for the fixes.

The report, he said, will be ready for review no later than Dec. 10 when the board is scheduled to meet again.

"The other aspects of the project, we will certainly take a look at, determine their viability," Herndon said. "Usually you get to most items on the bond, but if you have cost overruns in certain areas, which there were on some of the projects, then it limits your full scope to be able to get to every single one."

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