Council postpones vote on stadium funding

Tacoma City Council removed an item from the agenda for its June 7 meeting regarding a request to increase the contract for Cheney Stadium renovations.  Earlier in the day, during its Committee of the Whole meeting, several council members raised concerns about unresolved questions they had.

City staff had requested an $821,000 increase to the design/build contract that was awarded to M.A. Mortenson Company last year. This would cover unforeseen expenses and additional amenities. It would have raised the total contract amount to $27.4 million.

The additional money would be combined with $3.5 million of contingency funds included in the $26.5 million budget. It was meant to cover unforeseen expenses, including remediation of unsuitable soil, seismic upgrades and removal of asbestos and lead. A report from staff noted this would also cover items meant to “enhance the fan experience.” These include a canopy over part of the third-base seating areas, a grass berm along the first-base line and a new entrance and ticket booth beyond left field.

Several council members were under the impression that Mortenson would pay for extra amenities in exchange for an extension of several weeks of the deadline to complete the project.

Assistant Public Works Director Jim Parvey said that he reviewed records of prior meetings and project papers and did not find such a commitment from the construction company.

Parvey said it is typical to use contingency funding to address soil conditions. He noted some money was spent to comply with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, such as a ramp at the berm for wheelchairs users.

Councilmember Marty Campbell said some items in the change orders were upgrades to offices and locker rooms, as opposed to typical construction contingencies. He requested a detailed report on all change order items.

“When will we have a handle on the whole cost?” he asked.

“We are today on budget and on time,” Public Works Director Dick McKinley told the council.

Councilmember Jake Fey pondered what staff means exactly by the term “on budget.” He said the requested increase would push the construction budget past the original amount of $26.5 million.

“I do not believe we were ever notified we were going past the contract contingency,” Fey remarked.

Councilmember Ryan Mello noted that when he served on Metro Parks Commission, staff would bring change orders to that governing body for approval. He asked for clarification on what the policy is for city government.

“It seems like it is just pro-forma to have us approve it after the fact.”

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