Shortly after the city attorney swore in Juneau’s new mayor and two returning Assembly members, it was back to business with the awarding of a contract to demolish the twice-burned Gastineau Apartments.
CBC Construction, a building contractor out of Sitka, will be taking down the blighted apartment building that has been uninhabitable since it caught fire in November 2012. It caught fire again last March.
Loren Jones, who was sworn in Monday along with returning Assemblyman Jerry Nankervis and Mayor Greg Fisk, pulled the bid award from the consent agenda, which is typically approved with little discussion, to express his concerns about the project.
“This is a lot of money and a big issue to just throw on a consent agenda,” Jones said before questioning city Engineering Director Rorie Watt about the project. Watt oversaw the bid process and will oversee the demolition. At the top of Jones’ fairly lengthy list of concerns was the background of the contractor that will handle the demolition.
Watt said that he isn’t sure that CBC has “worked on a project of this magnitude,” but he said that he is confident in the team that the contractors have put together to take down the building.
“I will admit that it is an unusual project for CBC itself, but they’ve given a lot of the project over to Southeast Earthmovers,” he said, later explaining that Southeast Earthmovers, a well-drilling contractor also based out of Sitka, has proven itself in Juneau before. The contractor helped with the rock excavation necessary for the construction of the parking deck off of Main Street downtown.
Jones asked Watt about what the city is doing to monitor the demolition to ensure that everything goes according to plan.
“I have this vision of something going wrong and Gastineau Avenue meeting the Triangle Bar,” Jones said.
“That’s not a vision, it’s a nightmare,” Watt responded, but he assured the Assembly that he, along with members of the engineering staff, will be monitoring the project to make sure Jones’ fears aren’t realized. “We’re going to have a lot of eyes on this project.”
Jones was the only Assembly member to ask about the bid, which came in a little higher than expected. The city estimated the demolition would cost $1.2 million. CBC, the lowest bidder, said the project will cost about $1.36 million. Jones asked about this, too.
“There’re more than adequate reserves,” Watt said. He explained that the city transferred $1.8 million into a Capital Improvement Project fund at the end of June for the demolition to make sure that it could cover any additional costs that may come up during the course of the project. “I see no reason why we’d come close to that dollar amount, we should have funds left over,” he said.
Watt said he is “cautiously optimistic” that the building will be safely down by April 30, as scheduled.
The Gastineau Demolition was not the only item to be pulled from the consent agenda, which Assembly member and freshly appointed Deputy Mayor Mary Becker jokingly noted was “messier than usual.”
After pulling an ordinance amending the land use code as it relates to marijuana businesses from the consent agenda, the Assembly decided to send the ordinance to the Committee of the Whole for further discussion before introducing it during a public hearing on Nov. 9.
“This decision I’d like to have more discussion on,” Assembly member Karen Crane said when she requested to pull the item from the consent agenda.
The Assembly Committee of the Whole will discuss this ordinance further at its meeting Monday. At the request of Assembly member Kate Troll, who mentioned the importance of public testimony, the Assembly will allow public comment at the meeting, which is typically not allowed during work sessions.
At the start of the meeting, several prominent community members, including Rep. Cathy Muñoz and City Manager Kim Kiefer, thanked outgoing mayor Merrill Sanford for his service.
“There are very few people in my lifetime who I’ve met who have served their community and their state as you have,” Munoz said to Sanford, speaking in front of the Assembly Chambers full of people there to see Sanford off.
After giving a short speech about the importance of saying thank you and receiving quite a few himself, Sanford left the Chambers to applause.
“I’m on the road, toad,” he said, smiling as he walked out.