Upper Sims Way project under budget, says city manager

PORT TOWNSEND — The Upper Sims Way renovation project came in a little more than $1 million under budget, said City Manager David Timmons on Thursday.

Timmons also corrected a figure reported since last September for the proposed cost of the project: $7.1 million.

The Sims Way upgrade in Port Townsend was never expected to cost $7.1 million, Timmons said.

The budget was $5.5 million.

The actual cost of the project, now that it is completed: $4,493,206.

Where did the $7.1 million figure come from?

Go to the city’s Upper Sims Way Improvement Project website at http://tinyurl.com/2fvvnby, which was put up in September 2009.

Add up the line of figures describing funding sources for the project. That comes to $5,540,000.

Just above the line of figures is a note that says that Port Townsend received an additional $1.6 million in federal funds “which makes the project fully funded.”

Add that to the $5.5 million figure and the sum is $7,140,000.

But the $1.6 million figure was included in the $2,100,000 figure cited as coming from federal stimulus funds, and so should not have been added to the original budget, the city manager said.

Why did Timmons wait until Tuesday, when he sent out an e-mail saying that the $7.1 million was an “urban myth,” to correct it?

‘Didn’t pay attention’

“We’ve been so busy dealing with the issue [the renovation project itself] that we never paid attention to the reporting error until we started having all these criticisms coming out about the expense,” Timmons said Thursday.

“We had some people saying it was a waste of tax dollars,” he explained.

“I didn’t pay attention to this error until I was asked to explain.”

The actual cost of the project so far has been $4,443,206, and another $50,000 in bills is outstanding, Timmons said in his Tuesday e-mail.

That means the total cost will be $4,493,206.

That includes design and permitting ($811,327), right-of-way acquisition ($128,492), construction ($3,123,387), engineering ($380,000) and the $50,000 outstanding.

Under budget

What caused the project to come in under the budget planned in 2009?

“There were several factors there that came into play,” Timmons said.

“We just got a very good price,” from Seton Construction. Inc., a Port Townsend-based business.

The Port Townsend-based company’s base bid for construction was $2.6 million but with additional work in and around Sims, it was over $3 million, Timmons said.

“Being local helped make them more competitive,” Timmons said, because out-of-town companies would have higher expenses in bringing employees and equipment to town.

Other expenses included undergrounding utilities, cleanup and remediation, design and permitting, environmental testing and environmental mitigation in constructing wetlands, Timmons said.

Of the $1 million not used for the renovation, $500,000 is in Jefferson County Community Investment funds.

These are sales tax dollars collected in Port Townsend and throughout Jefferson County. The county administers the funds for economic development. The purpose is to support infrastructure, Timmons said.

“We held back the $500,000 of county funds because if we had used that money we would have had to refund the federal stimulus funds,” according to federal rules, Timmons said.

The city may also lose some $500,000 in federal stimulus funds, since it wasn’t used for the project, Timmons said.

City officials won’t know the status of that money until federal auditors finish their work, which is going on now and which will continue for the next couple of months.

“Once we reconcile and close the books, it may go back to the federal programs,” Timmons said.

After auditors have finished their work, city officials plan to return to the county to request that the $500,000 in county community investment funds now go to the Howard Street extension to Discovery Road, Timmons said.

Howard Street project

The Howard Street project, which is expected to cost $5,175,000 for two phases of the extension, is intended to create an alternate route into the city and open a new retail area, Planning Director Rick Sepler has said.

Preliminary designs are completed, Timmons said, and bids could be requested this fall — if the city resolves a wetlands mitigation issue and receives funding, Timmons said.

A new round of federal stimulus funding is expected in August.

If all goes well with funding and permits, construction on the Howard Street extension could begin next spring, Timmons said.

“The nice thing there is, we have no businesses that will be interrupted because it’s currently an undeveloped stretch,” the city manager said.

________

Managing Editor/News Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3531 or leah.leach@peninsuladailynews.com.

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