September 8, 2016 Sandy Robson
Presently, Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT) applicant Pacific International Terminals (PIT), continues to try to suspend, not terminate—not close out, the contract for EIS preparation for the GPT project.
Even though on May 9, 2016, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers determined the potential impacts from the construction of the GPT facility would be greater than di minimis to the Lummi Nation’s Usual and Accustomed treaty fishing rights, so the agency determined it cannot permit the GPT project.
The additional contract suspension GPT permit applicant PIT wants, which County Administration has agreed to, is for 180 days, or until March 13, 2017 whichever is first. This contract suspension is above and beyond the multiple extensions PIT has already been granted by County Administration since PIT’s initial 45-day suspension it was allowed (via a contract, clause) that the company requested on April 1, 2016.
The County Council will be asked to vote at its Sept. 13th Council meeting whether to allow County Executive Louws to sign the proposed contract Amendment No. 5.1 (to contract No. 201205028) that would extend the contract for the preparation of the EIS for the GPT and Custer Spur Modification project for 180 days, or to March 13, 2017, whichever occurs first.
By September 13, 2016, our County Administration will have already granted the GPT applicant another 121 days above and beyond the initial 45 days it was allowed per its contract with the County for Reimbursement of Fees and Costs associated with the EIS for the GPT project.
In the case of the prior contract suspensions subsequent to the initial 45-day suspension, there was not any requirement for Council approval as those suspensions did not involve any monies, as there was no EIS work being done that would have necessitated compensation to EIS consultant CH2M Hill.
Now, with this newly proposed contract extension that is being called a “ramp-down,” as there will be some work that the CH2M Hill will perform, so that will involve money (those EIS costs and fees are paid by applicants PIT and BNSF).
When there is money involved and the contract dollar amount is over the $40,000 threshold for contracts, then that requires Council’s approval, so the County Executive has to get Council approval before signing the contract, according to Whatcom County Code (WCC) 3.08 Purchasing System. WCC 3.08 establishes administrative procedures for approving public contracts.
Here’s something that could be important to note–
Back on May 23, 2016, 2 weeks after the May 9th GPT federal permit denial by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, County Executive Louws sent a Memorandum dated May 23, 2016, to County Council, proposing a change to the Whatcom County Code as it relates to purchasing authority.
Agenda Bill 2016-191, dated May, 23, 2016, sought to amend WCC 3.08 Purchasing System to increase the dollar threshold for contracts and professional services exceeding $20,000, and the dollar threshold for bids exceeding $50,000, which require Council’s approval. County Executive Louws wanted to increase the dollar threshold amount for contracts and bids to a dollar threshold of $250,000.
That proposed change to WCC 3.08 Purchasing System was discussed, and held in committee for numerous Council meetings until August 9th, when a revised version of that proposed amendment to the WCC 3.08 was passed by Council.
The dollar threshold in the amended version that was eventually passed by Council on August 9th was at a $40,000 threshold rather than the $250,000 threshold Louws desired for contracts and bids.
If my understanding of all of this is correct, then if County Executive Louws would have been successful in his attempt to increase the dollar threshold to $250,000 for contracts and bids, he would not then need Council’s approval for the proposed contract Amendment 5.1 to the contract for preparation of the EIS for the GPT project, or for any next proposed amendment to the contract for EIS preparation that would have been under the $250,000 dollar threshold he sought with his original proposal to amend WCC 3.08.
I’m really glad the Council only voted to give the County Executive dollar threshold increase of only $20,000 over the dollar threshold of $20,000, now making that a dollar threshold of $40,000. Although, my preference would have been no increase in the dollar threshold, as I believe our County Administrative branch needs more Council oversight, not less.
I hope lots of people will contact the Council and/or attend the Sept. 13th meeting to ask the Council to deny the authorization requested by County Executive Louws for the proposed contract amendment 5.1 to contract No. 201205028, that would extend the contract for the preparation of the EIS for the GPT and Custer Spur Modification project for 180 days, or to March 13, 2017, whichever occurs first.