Assembly approves CH2M Hill for Anchorage port mgmt.

After delaying it twice and holding a special meeting the Anchorage Assembly voted Feb. 25 to approve CH2M Hill’s bid for construction management services at the Port of Anchorage.

Passage of the initial five-year, $30 million contract came nearly two months after Mayor Dan Sullivan announced the international engineering and management firm had been chosen among a group of companies to manage future work on the port’s stalled construction project. Additional two-year options could take the contract out to a nine-year, $54 million working agreement.

Despite being approved by an 11-1 vote, Assembly members voiced concerns over the length of the contract and the fact that CH2M Hill is in litigation with the city over consulting work VECO, a company now owned by CH2M Hill, did on the original port design in 2007.

Assemblyman Bill Starr from Eagle River was the lone dissenting vote, and Assemblyman Patrick Flynn, who represents Downtown Anchorage, abstained from the vote.

On Jan. 23 the municipality’s Bidding Review Board found unanimously no conflict of interest between CH2M Hill’s involvement in a lawsuit with the municipality and entering into the management contract.

Starr said he wanted a contract that set more performance benchmarks and could hold CH2M Hill accountable if anything goes wrong.

“The master agreement doesn’t look much different than the one that started the problem before,” he said before the vote, referring to the earlier agreement the municipality had with the U.S. Maritime Administration to manage the project. Questions have been raised about the suitability of dock design and construction techniques during MARAD’s oversight period.

“The oversight measures are lacking on the master contract,” Flynn added.

Stacey Jones, a vice president for CH2M Hill on its West Coast port projects said the contract includes language that would allow the municipality to drop the company at any time without recourse.

It is a task order-based contract, she said. CH2M Hill gets paid only when a negotiated task order for work is approved, according to Jones.

CH2M Hill also conducted a study released in early 2013 on the Open Cell Sheet Pile design first used at the port and found it unsuitable for seismic stability at the site. Sheet pile designer PND Engineers has said repeatedly construction issues are to blame. Further, CH2M Hill presented concept designs to the municipality about a year ago that have been used as an outline for further work.

Sullivan said in an interview shortly before the vote that his administration has spent more than four years trying to determine who is responsible for the challenges the port project has faced and now it is time to change direction he said.

“I’m tired of looking backwards, from now on we’re looking forward 100 percent,” Sullivan said.

Work would begin almost immediately to re-permit the project, and while he may be ambitious, pre-construction work could begin as early as the spring of 2015, he said.

In a Feb. 18 presentation to the Legislature’s Joint Transportation Committee Sullivan told legislators that work on a new north dock at the port would be stopped to save nearly $280 million on the project.

Rather, he said, work would be done to replace the existing dock face with a traditional pile supported structure, much like what is in place now. The scaled back plan would require $250 million to $300 million in addition to the roughly $130 million the municipality has in its coffers for the project.

Elwood Brehmer can be reached at [email protected].

11/15/2016 - 4:52pm