Beach Access may be open before end of summer. Grass areas will not be open to public.
As final preparations for the Annexation Celebration festivities were being completed in the north corner of Juanita Beach Park, City Hall sent out a press release informing the public of some bad news: the contractor hired to renovate Juanita Beach Park had been fired for non-performance. The warning signs were visible for months as progress on the park renovation seemed to move at a glacial pace. The hopes of a summer filled with family picnics at the beach have now been dashed. Many Kirkland citizens are left wondering how this could happen and they are asking if/when the park will ever be opened again.
Upon receiving the press release, we called around town to learn more of the story.
According to people familiar with the situation, the contractor, DMSL Construction of Arlington, WA, had shown signs of difficulty for some time. One warning flag was that it appeared to have difficulty paying its workers. At times, workers went weeks without payment.
Sharp eyed citizens have questioned the progress of the project on these pages in recent months. All along, the contractor produced plans to the City, claiming it could complete the project on time. When the June 1 contract deadline passed and the project was not complete, the City acted and terminated the contract. Terminating the contract prior to that date may have left the City vulnerable to legal action.
The City of Kirkland entered into the $1.18 million contract for renovating the park in March of 2010. Payment was made for work completed. To date, the contractor has been paid all but approximately $400,000 of the original contract amount. What remains to be completed is largely landscaping and the City hopes to fast track the process of finding a new contractor, a process which involves state oversight.
The original contract was to be completed in 300 calendar days. Weather-related extensions and change orders accounted for the completion date to be pushed back to June 1, 2011.
In a Kirkland Views article written in April 2010 (see Juanita Beach to close May 3 for remainder of 2010), it was noted that the original estimate was that construction was to be completed in 10 to 12 months.
As the annexation was celebrated to the north, far from the planned beachfront location, music played and politicians spoke, I watched children play in the grass and enjoy the festivities. They seemed unaware of the pall of disappointment over the south side of the park. I looked to the beach wondering how long those ugly cyclone fences will bar them from playing on the beach. In a discussion with a member of the park board, he reminded me of the numerous projects that routinely get completed without a hitch. It was a good point, as most parks projects are completed without major public disruption. It was also noted that Juanita Beach Park is not just an ordinary park. It is a popular, expansive lakefront park and dear to many Kirkland citizens.
The acres of grass along the beach will not be open to the public this summer as there is not enough money to lay new sod and seeding will require plenty of "Keep off the grass" signs. The best case scenario at this point seems to be the quick selection of a new contractor and partial opening of the beach sometime before the fall.
The following is a particularly timely letter from Per-Ola Selander sent to the City Council written on June 2, 2011:
Dear City Council,
Have not been to a City Hall meeting in a long time, mainly because lack of time, not because a lack of hot issues concerning our City and region. They are never ending…
But one issue in particular though has been like a thorn in the side for a long time now, and it is the non-progress down at Juanita Breach Park.
I've been walking our dog there almost daily for the past years, closely following the progress of the "redesign". That was until late last year when the progress suddenly seemed to come to a halt. First signs of concern for me was that there was no grass, not even partially seeded on what was to become new lawns, because those areas were far from ready. I knew back then that if the lawns were to be ready for use in the summer of 2011, they needed to have been seeded before the winter.
After now having even more closely followed the work, and even a few times recently ventured in to the park for a closer inspection, I find it is just appalling that we are in the beginning of June and what we see is still very, very, little progress (apart from some actual cleanup of debris outside the project office).
The collection of plants in the NW corner (been in the pots since they were delivered last fall) are still sitting there, some dying, many outgrowing their too small pots. There are no signs of "900 trees" to be planted, the concrete walkways are halfway poured, etc. The bridge over the creek is still missing, and there are no sign of any prep work for pouring the foundations for that (missing) bridge.
The worst is that when you do walk by nowadays, there are many days a total lack of ANY activityor progress. Yes, we had a sour winter, but even a winter as wet as this one, a lot of work can be done. Heck, even new houses are erected in this weather, no reason parts of park remodeling work cannot proceed - provided the proper planning and project management – since there shouldn't really be a lack of funding.
Personally, I think this project truly stinks from a project management stand-point, City wise as well as what concerns the contractor.
Been holding off writing the Council until now because I wanted to talk directly to Michael Cogle first. I did finally speak to him this morning, first time I managed to reach him during several weeks (although I could probably have been more persistent), and it is clear that he is aware of the (bitter) situation, that he is trying to work with the contractor (a contractor that has problems paying their employees as well as subcontractors), and that he wants to do the right thing to get things back on track for a “possible” opening of the park sometime this summer.
I also asked him if there is not a performance bond we can hold over this contractor, and he told me that there is a bond “equal to the amount of the contract value”.
My recommendation would therefore be to rapidly terminate the current contractor, and bring in someone that can put crews to work and just finish the job in the shortest amount of time. There is no reason to provide this contractor any more lee-way, and just continue to "hope" that they'll do better. Their time is up - or should be! In this economic situation, there ought to be tons of qualified contractors willing to do the work. If not, put a City PM in charge and use readily available and very hardworking (as well as inexpensive) day labor to the task. The work needed does not seem to require any higher level of specialized skills, and if there are some areas where that’s needed, such resources should be readily available. ANYONE that takes this on and finish it for the summer (if that is now even possible) deserve to be awarded with “a Golden Key to the City”.
The Council should also very critically look at this project and do a post-mortem to ensure that we as a City do MUCH better on any future project. If that entails some reshuffling at departments that has been involved with this project, so be it, since this has become a poster child for how not to do things.
Personally, I am all for higher taxes to support projects like these, but this project is a ravaging example as to why people these days are so unwilling to part with their money for "public" projects. They feel that the projects are mismanaged, resulting in a huge waste of taxpayer dollars, and always take longer to finish than initially planned or communicated. It is really no longer a matter of not meeting set expectations; The tax paying public in general is just suspicious over "anything" public, and that is sad because public projects truly forms the glue that keeps our ever more complicated society together by providing for many badly needed basic services.
In this region, Juanita Beach is a tiny project (compared to Metro, ST, WSDOT, SDOT, Metro/Brightwater, etc), but this is a highly visible project, in an area that is very, very, dear to many residents of Kirkland, and in a Park that is supposed to be a gem and a proud representation of Kirkland. At the moment, it is far from that. It is just a sour example of how poorly municipal projects can be managed.
Hence, my request would be that the Council actually do bring this matter up for discussion and take some very decisive action, followed by some very clear and concise honest communication to the residents of our fine City. If the Park is not to be opened this summer, then say us so. We've just heard "April", then "May", then "beginning of June", etc.
If you want some additional personal perspectives, feel free to call me any time.