Petition aims to keep volunteer searchers involved

A Darrington man is pressing state officials to make sure residents involved in the search for victims of the Oso mudslide can continue their efforts during the clearing of Highway 530.

Nearly 800 people have signed a petition drafted by Brian Roggenbuck to ensure those who volunteered after the March 22 slide are not barred from helping find the last two bodies once a state-hired contractor begins the debris removal project.

“Hundreds of local volunteers showed up with heavy equipment and chainsaws to undertake the immense task of searching for survivors,” reads the petition. “We want those local contractors and workers who rushed to volunteer after the slide to be allowed to participate in restoring the main road to Darrington.”

Roggenbuck insisted Thursday it’s not about money and jobs; it’s about finding the last two people missing — Steven N. Hadaway, 53, and Kris Regelbrugge, 44 — and reuniting them with their families. “Our hope has always been to find everyone. It is like a mission,” he said. “We want to finish the job.”

Any day now the state Department of Transportation will award a contract for removing tons of materials on the two-lane highway that is the lifeline to Darrington.

Nine firms bid for the work, with IMCO General Construction of Ferndale submitting the apparent low bid of $4.9 million, according to documents posted on the agency website. The bids were opened Wednesday.

Federal Highway Administration funds will pay for the work. As a result, federal rules must be followed. That means the state cannot require the contractor to hire locals, or offer incentives to do so, said Travis Phelps, spokesman for the Department of Transportation.

That doesn’t prevent a contractor from hiring anyone it wants for jobs it needs to fill.

To that end, Phelps said the agency is committed to getting the contractor to meet with members of the community in hopes they will choose to tap into the “logger up” spirit demonstrated since the Steelhead Haven neighborhood disappeared under the fallen hill.

“We’ve been hearing pretty loud and clear that locals do want a piece of the action for the clearing and rebuilding of Highway 530,” Phelps said. “If we can get some of these folks employed, that would be great.”

Gov. Jay Inslee backs the strategy.

“We understand the community’s desire to remain engaged in this work and support WSDOT’s efforts to provide the opportunity for them to do so,” said Jaime Smith, Inslee’s director of media relations.

Roggenbuck said he appreciated the spirit of the commitment, but isn’t convinced contractors will embrace it.

“We would jump at the opportunity (to work) once the contract is let,” he said.

He said he and others learned through spending hours at the site how to search efficiently, effectively and respectfully. He worries employees of whatever firm is hired won’t have the experience to do the same from the outset.

“We are willing to go out there and we would donate our time,” said Roggenbuck, who said he’ll go back to logging once the last bodies are found. “Let’s just find everybody.”

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

More in Local News

It’s hard to find a parking spot at Wallace Falls State Park

There’s a study under way on how to tackle that issue and others.

At long last, a church of his own

After years of filling in elsewhere, Hallack Greider is the new pastor at Maplewood Presbyterian.

Judge: Lawmakers’ emails, texts subject to public disclosure

News organizations had sued to challenge the Legislature’s claim that members were exempt.

Herald photos of the week

A weekly collection of The Herald’s top images by staff photographers and… Continue reading

Outgoing councilwoman honored by Marysville Fire District

The Marysville Fire District in December honored outgoing City Councilwoman Donna Wright… Continue reading

Officials rule train-pedestrian death an accident

The 37-year-old man was trying to move off the tracks when the train hit him, police say.

Ex-Monroe cop re-arrested after losing sex crime case appeal

He was sentenced to 14 months in prison but was free while trying to get his conviction overturned.

Everett district relents on eminent domain moving expenses

Homeowners near Bothell still must be out by April to make way for a planned new high school.

Number of flu-related deaths in county continues to grow

Statewide, 86 people have died from the flu, most of whom were 65 or older.

Most Read