Blaine City Council OKs Martin properties survey contract

Published on Wed, Jan 25, 2012 by Jeremy Schwartz

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The city of Blaine could end up spending more than $70,000 to find out if running a proposed utility corridor through two parcels of private property in east Blaine is the most feasible route.

However, Blaine city manager Gary Tomsic said he won’t sign any contract for the survey until he’s sure the city can afford it. Blaine City Council voted 7-0 at its January 23 meeting to authorize Tomsic to sign the contract.

“The one issue I’m working on now is how to pay for it,” Tomsic said. “I will not sign any agreement until I know where the money’s coming from.”

Under the $54,602 contract, Bellingham-based Wilson Engineering would survey and study the wetlands on two parcels of private property between Harvey Road and the proposed Grandis Pond development. The survey work would determine the details of an underground utilities corridor city public works staff are proposing to run through the property to feed future development in east Blaine.

Tomsic added he will discuss a possible reimbursement plan with the Grandis Pond developers.

The Robert D. Martin Family Company owns the 144 acres of property, which the city initially tried to acquire via eminent domain. Blaine City Council elected to wait on this acquisition in December until survey crews could further study the property and the proposed utility corridor.

In addition to the survey work, Tomsic estimated the city would also need to spend approximately $18,000 for a private civil engineer to compare running utilities under the property with other options, such as running them under H Street. Tomsic said the city would most likely contract with former Blaine assistant public works director David Bren, who left his job at the city in 2009. Bren was instrumental in developing the east Blaine infrastructure plan, which called for a utility corridor of some sort to be extended out to future development in the area, Tomsic said.

Blaine City Council member Ken Oplinger wanted to know why additional survey work and analysis from Bren is needed. He said he thought this work was done years ago when the west Blaine infrastructure plan was developed. City council member Charlie Hawkins echoed Oplinger’s concerns.

“It seems like we’re redoing what we did before,” Hawkins said.

Tomsic said the survey work will help confirm if decisions made then are still the best for Blaine residents. Survey crews are now able to access the property, when they couldn’t before, and Tomsic said the work will allow city council to more accurately compare the costs of building the corridor through the Martin properties to other alternatives.

In response to Blaine mayor Harry Robinson’s question on whether Wilson Engineering was the low bidder, Tomsic said companies such as architecture and engineering firms are not put out to bid. In this case, Blaine consulted its small works roster, which includes Wilson Engineering, and chose Wilson based on their proven qualifications. A cost estimate was determined after they were chosen, Tomsic said.

City council member Clark Cotner asked Tomsic if the contracted engineering firm could ask for more money after the contract is signed. Tomsic said this is theoretically possible, but not likely. He said he won’t sign the contract until payment issues have been finalized.

At their January 10 meeting, Blaine City Council members approved an agreement between the city and the Robert D. Martin Family Company to access the two parcels. The city delayed its original plan to acquire the property via eminent domain after a  strong public outcry from members of the public.