Port Angeles council awards $770,000 contract for suicide barriers

Cherie Kidd

Cherie Kidd

PORT ANGELES — In what was described as a “big win” for Port Angeles, the City Council has awarded a contract to raise suicide barriers on the Eighth Street bridges.

The council voted 7-0 Tuesday to award a $770,770 contract to low bidder Interwest Construction, Inc. of Sequim to build an 8- to 9-foot-tall fence on both sides of the 100-foot-tall spans over Tumwater and Valley creeks.

The project is expected to be completed in September.

“This is wonderful,” Councilwoman Cherie Kidd said in Tuesday’s meeting.

“This will save lives. The community stood up and said: ‘We must have this.’ ”

Eight people have jumped to their deaths since the bridges reopened in 2009 with 4-foot, 6-inch railings. Half of those deaths have occurred since June 2017.

The new fencing will have an undulating top to resemble waves or mountains. It will be supported by aluminum posts attached to the outside of the existing 32-inch concrete barriers.

The existing aluminum railing will be removed.

Kidd has been urging taller barriers on the Eighth Street bridges throughout her three terms in office.

Last year’s council was called to action after 15-year-old Ashley Wishart of Port Angeles jumped to her death from the eastern bridge over Valley Creek in November.

“We all came together over this, the council, the staff, the citizens, the entire community,” Kidd said Tuesday.

Kidd worked with state Rep. Mike Chapman, D-Port Angeles, and other legislators to secure $350,000 in state funding for the Eighth Street project. The western bridge crosses the Tumwater Truck Route, a state highway.

Kidd’s motion to award the contract also accepted the $350,000 in state assistance and authorized City Manager Dan McKeen to execute the funding agreement and project prospectus.

“Starting last summer, I began having meetings with Representative Mike Chapman regarding this issue, so he was ready to hit the ground running this year when the Legislature went into session,” Kidd said.

“[State Rep.] Kevin Van De Wege helped him on the Senate side. I know [state Rep.] Steve Tharinger was supportive.”

Van De Wege, D-Sequim, Tharinger, D-Sequim, and Chapman represent the 24th Legislative District, which covers the North Olympic Peninsula.

“Everyone — from the citizens, to the council, to the staff, to our representatives — we made a community circle to help our community so that we can have a burden off our shoulders,” Kidd said.

“There’s other issues we will take up in the future, but this is a big win for our community.”

In addition to the $350,000 from the state, the city received more than $124,000 in pledges and donations from community members and businesses.

“I’m so proud of everyone who stepped up and spoke up and said ‘Let’s do this,’ ” Kidd said.

The preliminary estimate for the Eighth Street bridge safety project was $1.4 million.

The engineer’s estimate was $805,320.

Other bids were submitted by Combined Construction, Inc. of Mukilteo ($824,561) and A1 American Fence, Inc, of Orange, Texas, ($1.47 million).

City staff identified several possible funding sources for the bridge barriers, including real estate excise taxes, general funds and deferred capital projects.

Because the winning bid was below the engineer’s estimate, the city will have more to spend on other projects such as new railings at City Pier.

“I think that it really needs to be underlined that the citizens generating $124,000 is really big,” Councilman Mike French said.

“And the fact that that happened was a huge selling point, I know, for the people who were active to get the state on board.”

“This is a good day for us, but our work isn’t done,” French added.

“There’s still a long way to go to rid the stigma of mental illness. We still have a community in which the needs for behavioral health far outstrip our resources.

“That’s the next step.”

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].

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