Why is the new Fire Station still unoccupied? Fire Chief gives us answers


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by Scott Schaefer

Recently, many Readers have been inquiring about why the newly-constructed Burien/Normandy Park Fire Station #28, located at 900 SW 146th Street, sits empty a year after being completed.

Construction of the new station started in late summer 2011, with completion and occupancy first anticipated for late July or early August of 2012.

However, as we first reported on Feb. 7, 2013, numerous construction errors – which may cost nearly $1 million to fix and are still unresolved – have prevented firefighters from moving in, most recently problems with rebar throughout:

Photo of a rebar problem near the rear northeast corner of the building.

“The general contractor, Bayley Construction, and its subcontractor, Mesa Precast, located in Arizona, have not been cooperative or helpful in attempts to resolve the matter, which appears headed now to court litigation,” Fire Chief Mike Marrs told The B-Town Blog Thursday (Feb. 6). “Since the repair effort will be extensive and require scaffolding during the repair, we have decided not to open the station, as it would have to be closed immediately again during the repair which will take months.”

NOTE: The City of Burien is not involved in this project, so they cannot be blamed. King County Fire District 2 is a separate governmental entity, which is under its own oversight.

We asked Chief Marrs for an update, and this is the statement he sent The B-Town Blog on Thursday, Feb. 6:

Lately, many questions have been asked about why our new Station 28, on 146th Street, has not been put into service, even though it appears to be completely finished.

We would like to answer these questions.

Serious problems have arisen with regard to the masonry pieces that make up the siding on the outside of the station. These masonry blocks are supposed to have reinforcing steel bars (rebar) inside, but placed at least 1 and 1/2 inches below the surface, according to the contractor’s drawings, and national industry standards. Unfortunately, some of the masonry blocks were made and then installed with less than the required depth to the rebar, and so they had begun to fail even before the building was finished. Poorly placed rebar has rusted and caused cracking or spalling of the blocks and will rust more in the future. Extensive testing then revealed that at least half of the masonry blocks do not have the bare minimum of 3/4″ of cover that the contract specifies.

The fire district board, in consultation with many experts, has concluded that the only way to prevent repeated failures of these blocks over the next several years, is to remove the masonry siding and have that work done over, with properly made and installed masonry pieces. The repair effort may well cost nearly $1 million. The color of the masonry installed is also not uniform or what was specified.

The general contractor, Bayley Construction, and its subcontractor, Mesa Precast, located in Arizona, have not been cooperative or helpful in attempts to resolve the matter, which appears headed now to court litigation. Since the repair effort will be extensive and require scaffolding during the repair, we have decided not to open the station, as it would have to be closed immediately again during the repair which will take months. We cannot operate a fire station safely amid scaffolds and ongoing construction work.

The City of Burien did routine inspections and the construction did not fail inspections; a certificate of occupancy was in fact granted, but the City may “red tag” the building during the repair. The City is not involved in the dispute between the fire district and the contractors.

The dispute over the masonry blocks, along with issues regarding the roof and the apparatus bay doors (since resolved), has delayed the project well over a year. The District will claim considerable “liquidated damages” against the general contractor for the unconscionable delay. Rest assured that the fire district will see to it that the project is completed–and the masonry done correctly–ultimately holding the proper parties responsible. The Board of Commissioners did not want to accept a shoddy masonry job, even if the remainder of the building is a fire station the community can be proud of. For the prices that are being paid by the district–and therefore the people of this district through the bonds and taxes–we owe it to ourselves to insist on a high quality product (building) inside and out. Appearance and quality does matter.

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Comments

4 Responses to “Why is the new Fire Station still unoccupied? Fire Chief gives us answers”
  1. Linda Plein says:

    Thank you Scott for looking into this and I appreciate the response of the Fire Chief regarding the problems and the steps to put the fire station into service. I wish the fire department the best with their efforts.

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  2. Katja Kloepfer says:

    Thanks for some answers.
    Why use an Arizona company in the first place when we should keep those $’s in our community????? I am sure there would have been enough contractors in the area who could have done a better job and now it will take a few more years to deal with instead.

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    • Dan says:

      Katja,

      When contractors bid the project, there chief concern is to develop the lowest bid price in order to be awarded the job over the competing contractors. Chances are they received a quote from a Northwest-based pre-cast concrete supplier, but the cost was higher. In this instance, they chose the lowest supplier, from Arizona, in order to keep the bottom-line cost as low as possible to win the project. The nature of operating this way does have it’s drawbacks… lower cost can bring lower quality, which is what happened here.

      If you were referring to Bayley Construction being from Arizona, a similar situation applies to public works projects. The project is put out to open bid (from any contractor) and when bids are received, the agency (fire department) is required to go with the lowest responsive bidder. Again, this process does have it’s drawbacks, but it is intended at least partly to save the taxpayers money by getting the least expensive price on the job.

      While your question/comment about keeping money local is a good one in terms of what is best for the community, it is not entirely practical when it comes to the construction industry, unfortunately.

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