Spokane Valley could spend more than $4 million fixing City Hall
Mon., Jan. 30, 2023
Spokane Valley is spending up to $4.4 million to fix its 5-year-old City Hall.
The City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved two contracts for the investigation and repair of City Hall construction defects. One contract, with Garco Construction, will cost between $350,000 and $4 million. The other, with the construction management and engineering firm CBRE/Heery, will cost nearly $355,000.
Spokane Valley City Hall, 10210 E. Sprague Ave., opened in 2017. It was a relatively inexpensive building by municipal government standards, costing $14 million .
City officials found structural problems with their new home shortly after moving in, however. Most notably, the northeast wall of the building was sinking.
In April 2020, Spokane Valley sued Meridian Construction, Architects West, Allwest Testing & Engineering and Eight31 Consulting, hoping to force the companies that had built City Hall to pay for repairs.
In its response to Spokane Valley’s lawsuit, Meridian Construction tried and failed to get a judge to dismiss the request for damages. The case is scheduled to go to trial this summer in Spokane County Superior Court.
Even with the lawsuit ongoing, Spokane Valley has begun fixing its government headquarters
For instance, the city has installed concrete pillars underneath the northeast wall to prevent it from sinking, improved fireproofing of the two main staircases and repaired the HVAC system. Repairs already cost Spokane Valley $800,000 and legal fees have cost thousands more, even before this week’s contracts.
Still, city staff say more work needs to be done. In order to do that work, Spokane Valley is embarking on a progressive design build.
Progressive design builds are relatively uncommon for local governments. To some extent, they allow cities to bypass competitive bidding requirements, and Spokane Valley couldn’t have done one without approval from the state Department of Enterprise Services’ Project Review Committee.
Effectively, Spokane Valley is asking Garco Construction to physically assess specific areas of City Hall – in some instances by opening up the walls – and determine whether construction aligned with the project specifications.
Garco can fix problems as it finds them. If it discovers relatively few defects, the contract may only cost a few hundred thousand dollars, but if it uncovers bigger issues Spokane Valley could pay as much as $4 million for repairs.
By opting for a progressive design build, Spokane Valley can have Garco Construction handle the work with the help of a construction management and engineering firm. If the city had taken a more traditional approach, it would have had to solicit individual bids from contractors every time it found a new problem in need of repair.
Rick Wetmore, an attorney representing Meridian Construction, said it’s “frustrating” that Spokane Valley didn’t disclose their plans to pursue a progressive design build during the litigation process.
He also questioned whether the project is necessary and noted that the city already hired consultants to assess possible construction defects.
“The entire contract seems a little bizarre in that they seem to be hiring Garco to investigate the validity of their own expert’s opinion,” Wetmore said. “At first blush, this certainly looks like a pretty substantial waste of money by the city, and the city continues to put the cart before the horse.”
In documents provided to council members, city staff said it would remain uncertain what fixes are needed until “construction exploration,” including opening ceilings and walls, occurs.
City Councilman Ben Wick said the city is trying to be a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars by hiring Garco and CBRE/Heery.
“I think it’s important for the public to get the building that we originally paid for, so we need to get it fixed and into perfect order,” Wick said in an interview. “The community expects that.”
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