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Lemolo halts award of trail contract

POULSBO — A conflict over the method to create a new walking trail in Little Norway has delayed a project that’s now more than three years in the making.

Which is probably the reason council members weren’t too concerned about another week of deliberations.

At its Jan. 14 meeting, the Poulsbo City Council was to consider awarding a $226,314 construction bid to Gig Harbor’s Sound Excavation for the construction of the Liberty Bay Trail. Instead, council members unanimously agreed to delay awarding a contract to its Jan. 21 meeting.

Councilwoman Kathryn Quade suggested tabling the trail issue one more week after hearing concerns about its design from the Liberty Bay Foundation/Lemolo Citizen’s Club. That suggestion eventually became a recommendation from the Public Works Committee to the full council.

“I’m loathe to let the contract out until we’ve nailed down the exact plan. I think we need to evaluate that more thoroughly,” Quade commented.

The pedestrian route along the west side of Fjord Drive south to Lemolo Shore Drive was proposed more than three years ago and receipt of the final permits just missed last summer’s construction season.

The current plans call for a 6-foot pedestrian trail on the water side, two 10-foot traffic lanes and a 3-foot section beyond the fog line on the upland side. City Engineer John Stephenson’s plan is to measure out 16 feet from the center line in order to determine where pavement needs to be added to accommodate the trail. In some cases, there is already six feet beyond the fog line on the water side, while in others, pavement would need to be added.

“We wanted the center line and the lane lines to stay the same and have alignment, with the patchwork occurring on the shoulder,” Stephenson explained of the work.

But the Liberty Bay Foundation/Lemolo Citizen’s Club is concerned about the potential for the destruction of native plants when grading and paving take place on the water side. The group is suggesting that if the city were to measure from the edge of the pavement, staff would find there are far more instances where there is already the 29 feet total of needed pavement.

“There’s only one case about 10-foot long where there’s not enough pavement,” Quade told fellow Public Works Committee members Wednesday. “What I would like to put on the table that it could very easily be shifted to take the measurement from the existing edge of pavement and we wouldn’t have to do anything except change the striping.”

“I would feel really confident with the council members going out there on their own, consider what we’re talking about and go ahead and make whatever decision you want next week,” added Lemolo resident Luis Barrantes, who was on hand Wednesday night urging a delay. “But at least you will have first hand knowledge of the area. To hold off one more week, I hardly think we’re going to hurt anything.”

But Stephenson defended his measurements, especially considering the permitting process he recently completed to construction the trail. The project’s $300,000 price tag is paid for through a $260,000 federal grant and $20,000 in matching funds from the City of Poulsbo and Kitsap County. The federal funding source required the project undergo a rigorous permitting process, which is why the planning has taken more than three years.

“If that’s what we were going to do, we would have done it three years ago. We would not have needed any permits,” Stephenson commented on the suggestion to simply change the striping. “In some cases, there are one to two feet beyond the fog line and in other cases there is a shoulder of four to five feet beyond the fog line. Since the shoreline edge is somewhat jagged, the lanes would be jagged.”

While changing the striping would save money on paving, Stephenson also cautioned that the grinding and re-striping would add cost.

Stephenson said he understood the foundation’s concerns about native plants, especially two recent native-species plantings by the group. However, he said those issues were addressed in the contract that was on the table Wednesday.

“We’ve written the specifications really thoroughly, to the point that the contractor will have to do quite a bit of hand work, as opposed to working with big machinery, in order to protect the plants,” Stephenson said. “But if the plants are in the way, we have a bid amount in the specs for transplanting small plants.”

But in the end, the rest of council sided with the Public Work’s Committee’s recommendation. The item is expected to be considered again at the Jan. 21 council meeting. At that point, council may decide whether to award a bid, award a bid with the potential for a change order, or redo the plan and restart bids.

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