Ephrata awards contract to Granite despite problems

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Charles H. Featherstone/Columbia Basin Herald Ephrata City Council member and Mayor Pro Tempore William Coe during Wednesday’s city council meeting.

EPHRATA — The Ephrata City Council on Thursday awarded an $180,000 contract to Granite Construction to resurface Eighth Avenue Northwest despite concerns about the company’s work replacing the Basin Street water main.

“There have been a few concerns on behalf of the council, staff and engineering team,” City Administrator Wes Crago said. “We had a pre-award conference with Granite to talk about our concerns, and it was a pretty frank conversation.”

Crago said residents have complained about “the potholes, bumps and lumps” on Basin Street following Granite’s work replacing the water main underneath the road.

“There’s been some very unacceptable work done,” Crago said.

However, Crago told the council that Granite Construction’s bid for the Eighth Avenue repaving contract came in at $170,255 — well under the engineer’s estimate of $188,410 and below the next lowest bid of $180,732 from Tommer Construction of Ephrata.

He also said that Granite, which has offices across the United States, “has many divisions” and the operation submitting the winning bid is in Moses Lake, while the division doing the Basin Street work is based in Yakima.

“We’ll hold people accountable for not doing their job,” Crago said.

After talks with the Transportation Improvement Board (TIB), which awarded the grant for the Eighth Avenue work, Crago said the TIB was okay with rejecting the low bid if the city council decided to do that.

“No doubt it will be popular with some people, who would feel like that’s a just outcome,” Crago said.

However, Crago added there were “10,477 reasons” — the dollar amount between the lowest and next lowest bids on the project — to award the contract to Granite Construction.

“It may feel good to show there are some consequences, but that’s $10,477 of taxpayers money. So the staff is unanimous that we should award the contract to Granite,” he said.

“The moral high ground can be very expensive real estate,” said Council member Matt Moore.

Both Crago and Public Works Director Bill Sangster noted that much of the problem with Basin Street is that the road is showing its age and should have been resurfaced years ago.

“Most of the stuff that is bumpy in the road that everyone wants to blame on them is not them,” Sangster said. “That road is five years past when it should have been overlaid. Some of that’s our fault because we didn’t do our project for years, and we got held up.”

The work is scheduled to begin in early July, after school gets out. The Washington State Department of Transportation began the $3.6 million resurfacing 8.5 miles of Basin Street (SR-28) through Ephrata to Soap Lake last month, and expects to complete the project by August, according to the DOT web site.

The TIB also awarded Ephrata $300,000 to redo a sidewalk the entire length of C Street from Parkway Boulevard to Ephrata High School as part of the state’s Complete Streets program, which helps ensure there are safe walking routes to school across the state.

Work on that project is not slated to start until next year, according to Sangster.

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached via email at cfeatherstone@columbiabasinherald.com.

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