A drawing shows a planned addition to the Snohomish County Courthouse. (Heery International)

A drawing shows a planned addition to the Snohomish County Courthouse. (Heery International)

Thanks to high bids, courthouse overhaul already over budget

Blame the hot Seattle-area construction market. Work is scheduled to start next month.

EVERETT — Snohomish County’s courthouse renovation is over budget before the first construction fence has gone up.

The County Council received a briefing Monday on the latest bids for the five-story addition and overhaul of the existing building, work that’s scheduled to break ground next month.

The bids came in nearly $4.7 million above budget. That’s about 6.5 percent more than the $72 million the council authorized last year.

“In this hot construction market we’re actually feeling quite good about that number,” said Ken Klein, an executive director for the county. “From what our consultants are telling us, they’re seeing overages in the Seattle market of 20 to 30 percent.”

The new total includes more than $4 million in contingency money, so it’s possible the project could wind up close to the original budget, he said.

No action was taken Monday. The council is set to vote July 25 on approving the construction bids. Fencing could go up along Wall Street and Wetmore Avenue as early as Aug. 1.

At Monday’s meeting, County Councilman Terry Ryan said he was disappointed to learn about the cost increase after hearing for more than a year that the project was on time and on budget.

“And we haven’t even put a shovel in the dirt yet,” Ryan said.

He asked a pointed question: Why hadn’t the council learned of the issue before last week, when Klein met individually to update each member? Had he known, Ryan said, he might have voted differently on a recent request that approved filling three executive office positions.

Klein said the last of the 30 bids arrived June 25. He said contractors provided widely varying estimates. The general contractor earlier this year estimated the project at $2.9 million over budget, while a third party pegged it at $6 million under.

“Until you test the market, you really don’t know,” he said.

Annual debt payments on the extra amount would cost roughly $300,000 per year.

Klein outlined three ways the county could make up the difference without raising taxes: selling county-owned property across the street, using a real estate excise tax or dipping into a savings fund intended to maintain or replace other buildings.

Council Chairwoman Stephanie Wright said she was surprised the project came in as low as it did, noting that bids for steel were under the estimates.

Councilmen Nate Nehring and Sam Low pledged to help find savings.

There’s no apparent appetite on the council for raising taxes to pay for courthouse construction.

“I’m not going to vote for anything going forward that’s going to increase taxes or fees,” Low said.

The renovation is intended to fix shortcomings with the 1967 justice building, including the presence of asbestos. The elevators are prone to breaking down and also are used to move jail detainees who are appearing in court. Few of the bathrooms are fully accessible to people with disabilities.

A planned new wing on the north side of the building would provide a safer security screening area, as well as modern elevators and bathrooms. That’s only a partial list of upgrades.

Dave Jobs, a senior associate with construction-management consultant OAC, listed other projects contributing to the bustling construction market in the greater Seattle area. They include work for tech giants such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft, plus an array of huge government works. The latter group includes numerous public school buildings and Sound Transit light-rail lines.

The latest wrinkle in the courthouse project invites uncomfortable comparisons with a previous incarnation.

Three years ago, the county was on the verge of breaking ground on a new courthouse across the street. The eight-story building was budgeted at $162 million.

Citing concerns over the costs and lack of parking, a majority of the council abruptly voted to pull the plug. At the time, Klein and his boss, now-Executive Dave Somers, were on the council. John Lovick was the county executive.

After winning election in the fall of 2015, Somers recommended a major overhaul of the old courthouse as a cheaper alternative.

A majority of the council agreed. By that point, the county had already spent more than $12 million on the canceled project, including the condemnation of five buildings through eminent domain. Selling those properties is now among the options for cost savings.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@herald net.com. Twitter: @NWhaglund.

Talk to us

More in Local News

The Safeway store at 4128 Rucker Ave., on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Mike Henneke / The Herald)
Police: Everett Safeway ex-worker accused of trying to ram customers

The man, 40, was showing symptoms of psychosis, police wrote. Officers found him circling another parking lot off Mukilteo Boulevard.

Lynnwood Mayor Christine Frizzell speaks during a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the completion of the 196th ST SW Improvement Project near the 196th and 44th Ave West intersection in Lynnwood, Washington on Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Jarred by anti-Semitic rants, Lynnwood council approves tax increase

Three people spewed hate speech via Zoom at a council meeting this week. Then, the council moved on to regular business.

The county canvassing board certifies election results at the Snohomish County Auditor’s Office in Everett, Washington on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023.  (Annie Barker / The Herald)
General election results stamped official by canvassing board

In Snohomish County, one hand recount will take place. Officials said ballot challenges were down this year.

The Days Inn on Everett Mall Way, which Snohomish County is set to purchase and convert into emergency housing, is seen Monday, Aug. 8, 2022, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Over $130M for affordable housing set to be approved by County Council

The five-year investment plan of the 0.1% sales tax aims to construct 550 new affordable units.

Two snowboarders head up the mountain in a lift chair on the opening day of ski season at Stevens Pass Ski Area on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022, near Skykomish, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Ski season delayed at Stevens Pass due to minimal snow

Resort originally planned to open Dec. 1. But staff are hopeful this week’s snow will allow guests to hit the slopes soon.

Siblings Qingyun, left, and Ruoyun Li, 12 and 13, respectively, are together on campus at Everett Community College on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023, in Everett, Washington. The two are taking a full course load at the community college this semester. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Siblings, age 12 and 13, are youngest students at EvCC campus

Qingyun Li was 11 when he scored a perfect 36 on the ACT test. His sister, Ruoyun, was one point away.

Edmond’s newly elected mayor Mike Rosen on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Mayor-elect Rosen wants to ‘make Edmonds politics boring again’

Mike Rosen handily defeated incumbent Mayor Mike Nelson. He talked with The Herald about how he wants to gather the “full input” of residents.

Outside of Angel of the Winds Arena on Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Police arrest Angel of the Winds arena worker accused of stabbing boss

The man allegedly walked up to his employer and demanded a raise, before stabbing him in the stomach, witnesses said.

Providence Hospital in Everett at sunset on December 11, 2017. (Kevin Clark / The Daily Herald)
After strike, Everett nurses, Providence agree on tentative contract

Following a five-day strike, union nurses and the hospital met to negotiate for the first time in late November.

The terminal and air traffic control tower at Paine Field are seen on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022, in unincorporated Snohomish County, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Everett’s second-largest aerospace employer, ATS, names new CEO

New CEO Robert Cords will lead Paine Field-based Aviation Technical Services, which employs 800 people in Everett.

A sign showing the river levels of previous floods is visible along the Snohomish River on Monday, Dec. 4, 2023 in Snohomish, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Forecast holds: Flooding to hit Tuesday in Gold Bar, Monroe, Snohomish

The Snohomish River was expected to crest “just below” major flood stage late Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.

Chestnut mushrooms grow in a fruiting tent on Friday, Dec. 1, 2023, at Black Forest Mushrooms in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Fungi town: Downtown Everett home to new indoor gourmet mushroom farm

Black Forest Mushrooms will grow up to 20,000 pounds of tasty mushrooms each month. Its storefront opens Saturday at 2110 Hewitt Ave.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.