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Big downtown Rucker tear-up may be done this spring

EVERETT — The general contractor for the Rucker Renewal street project, which isn’t complete yet, wants an additional $700,000 to cover its overages.
A few City Council members initially recoiled over the reason: Time slipped and costs rose because the contractor wanted the city to grant a noise waiver to work into the night in downtown. City officials evaluated but ultimately rejected the noise variance request.
When the topic came back at its March 11 meeting, the City Council voted 5-0 to approve the payment after 30 minutes of conversation behind closed doors with the city attorney.
The general contractor, Jansen Inc., built the nighttime variance into its winning bid, Mayor Cassie Franklin said at the March 4 council meeting.
It’s common for contractors to include time variance requests in their bids, but if the city doesn’t grant it, then a contractor would have to work within the allowed schedule, said Lance Calloway, the northern district manager for the Association of General Contractors Washington, the state’s largest contracting trade organization.
The variance would have let Jansen make construction noise past 10 p.m.
More than 300 people live in the Library Place, Aero and Lumen (formerly Potala Village) apartment buildings close to the construction zone.
“We couldn’t move it faster at the expense of downtown residents,” Franklin said as to why the city didn’t approve the variance.
Jansen declined to comment for this story because its policy is to have comments to media come from who hired them for the work, a person who picked up the phone at Jansen’s Bellingham office said.
The contractor requested the increase because it’s taking longer than it anticipated to lay down concrete because the contractor wasn’t permitted to work after hours, city public works spokeswoman Kathleen Baxter said. The change asks to pay for adding 29 workdays of labor.
The $708,000 sum was after multiple negotiations, Franklin said.
A Tribune review of the contract found language that time outside of the normal hours “will not be granted.”
The Rucker Renewal is a full redesign of four blocks of Rucker Avenue and replaces an underlying water main. The city says it’s looking like it will all be complete this spring.
It originally was bid as a $9.5 million project when it launched in July. This overage payment, the third one and probably last, puts the contract at $10.9 million.
At the March 4 City Council meeting, Councilman Scott Murphy raised the objection to paying more money because the contractor assumed it would receive the noise variance.
Councilman Jeff Moore cautioned that the council shouldn’t openly denounce the contractor or say it should eat the costs, indicating this would look bad if the council ended up voting to deny the payment.
Council members asked what would happen to the project if they didn’t sign off on the contract cost increase. No city official was able to say for sure.
As an aside, the project has dug up a few interesting artifacts such as a prescription bottle and disused railroad ties.



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