Public Works will hire an engineer to manage San Juan Island transfer station project; will add $100K-150K to cost

San Juan County's Department of Public Works will cast a line outside its ranks to hook an engineer to oversee the pending construction of an improved solid-waste transfer station on San Juan Island.

The expense of bringing an outside engineer onboard would be folded into the overall cost of the project and is expected to run somewhere between $100,000 and $150,000, according to Public Works Director Jon Shannon.

In a unanimous decision, the County Council on July 7 approved a request by the department to hire an engineer to supervise the design and future construction of a new solid-waste facility that is expected to fulfill the needs of the county's most heavily-populated island for the next 20 years or more.

The department's request was endorsed by the county general government committee, led by Administrator Pete Rose.

"We think it's a good idea to get a professional problem-solver," Rose said.

Building a new solid-waste facility at Sutton Road is expected to cost anywhere between $5.2 million and $7 million, according to Public Works' preliminary estimate. A funding source has yet to be determined.

The Beaverton Valley Road site had until recently been the odds-on-favorite to host the island's new solid-waste facility. But two months ago, the council chose the existing site on Sutton Road as its top choice for an improved solid-waste operation. Top officials of the county and the Town of Friday Harbor have been negotiating a potential sale of a 13-acre slice of the property, which is owned by the town and a portion of which is leased to the county's solid-waste division.

Talks are also under way regarding the steps that each will take to prevent any mixing in the future of the contaminated stormwater that drains from the area of the tipping floor into the groundwater beneath the surface of the 26-acre former landfill.

Shannon said Public Works would be hard-pressed to provide the day-to-day oversight that a project of such magnitude and complexity demands, given the number of tasks its engineers already are assigned. It's a matter of "capacity rather than capability."

"The biggest challenge is the time it takes to do a project like this," he said.

Shannon said the department previously has gone outside its ranks to hire an engineer for several large-scale projects in which expertise and daily oversight were also a priority, such as the pending relocation of Cattle Point Road, decommissioning of the gravel pit in Friday Harbor following its purchase by the county, and the recent replacement and repair of the courthouse roof.

Rose said Public Works is near the point at which drafting a design for a new facility can proceed. It should take several months for the designs to be completed and blueprints are expected sometime in spring.

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