The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

Pullman City Council approves Apollo Inc. contract

24 members of the community sign up for public comment, city council approves plan in divided vote
Clayton Forsmann, deputy public works director, giving the details of Apollo Inc.’s bid at Tuesday’s city council meeting.

Pullman city council held a special meeting to hear from those vote on accepting Apollo Inc.’s bid for Project Downtown Pullman.

Mayor Francis Benjamin began the meeting with the public comment portion. Benjamin said he appreciated those who have taken the time to provide public comment in prior meetings. Twenty-four people signed up to partake in public comment this meeting.

Local business owner CJ Robert said initially the project was planned to take place during four months or so during the summer, which businesses would have been able to work better during, but with the change in plans, they will be affected for the worse.

“2020 was absolutely economically devastating for anybody who can not pivot to being online only,” Robert said. “I can speak for my family that there were many nights we cried ourselves to sleep wondering if we were going to be able to keep our doors open and make sure our employees were well-cared for.”

Robert said the government stepped in and helped businesses survive after the devastation of the pandemic, but this plan would put businesses back in the hole during the period of recovery.

“Please do not make this cruel decision before knowing the impacts it may cause on the city of Pullman,” Robert said.

WaFd Bank manager Alan Hodges said he believes the bank will survive the construction timeline but believes the project will deny service to customers.

“There will be no access to the front of the lobby from our branch or the ATM that is located on Main St.,” Hodges said. “This will effectively deny access to our customers who come into the bank to cash for groceries, make deposits or process their business deposits.”

Hodges said little or no parking will be available in the evolved parking area behind the bank and a large amount of customers out of their average of 1,400 a month may be affected.

Lily Bee’s owner Melanie Hodges said she has worked very hard on her business for the past 18 years and half of the money goes back to the community.

“In two minutes this board can decide if I’m important or not. Well I can tell you that I am,” Hodges said. “If I came around and decided I wanted to destroy every one of your businesses’ or whatever you do, you would be outraged.”

Rick Grunewald, WSU associate director for payroll services, said he is in favor of the project and the city needs the revitalization.

“This project addresses a dire need we have because of outdated infrastructure,” Grunewald said. “We’re going to have to replace those hundred year pipes sometime. Let’s do it now.”

Grunewald said he encourages citizens to work together to make sure businesses prosper during the renovation.

Resident Tom Thompson said he has lived in Pullman for 40 years and believes the project is important to move forward on.

“There’s no guarantee the money will be there in the future past this year,” Thompson said. “I would also ask if this passes for the council and our staff here to work with our state government.”

Brice Erickson, B & L Bicycles owner, said if the council votes to pull the plug on the project he hopes there is a replacement in mind.

“The problem is we’ve got a one-and-done solution and it can be very destructive to businesses,” Erickson said. “Everyone agrees the downtown needs to be fixed up and we all support that. However, if you vote yes, understand you now own this project and I hope the city council will use every tool in its arsenal to try to protect the businesses.”

Erickson said he has been in Pullman for 28 years and has seen downtown rebound. He hopes this project will not erase that progress.

Resident Monique Slipher said the city is planning on chopping the trees downtown just as they reach their mature prime of life.

“There are dozens of environmental benefits that mature shade trees provide in urban spaces,” Slipher said. “Most of us have some ideas on what those are. But here’s the catch; trees must be mature, 15-20 years at least, to provide those benefits.”

Slipher said she encourages the council to take the time to do the project over two years and save as many trees as possible.

Resident Amy Ratliffe said she has lived in Pullman for over 20 years and appreciates what the council is doing.

“I don’t think there are many people who would like to sit in your seats right now because this is a big decision that impacts a lot of people and many of those people are represented in this room and many of those people are not represented in this room,” Ratliffe said. “When we voted you into your position we knew you’d have to make hard decisions and we realize this is a hard decision.”

O-Ramen owner Orin Ford said he started his business by putting everything into it in 2019. During the pandemic, he kept the business open by working lunch and dinner service everyday.

“We bought a noodle machine and stepped up our game and hoped for better days around the corner,” Ford said. “For my place, an infrastructure plan that disrupts and impacts the entire downtown for not merely one summer, where business is already quite slow, but rather disrupts customers for closer to eight months, including three of the busiest months, feels like a big step back into the bleaker days of COVID.”

Ford said everyone in the room wants better infrastructure but there is some doubt that many of the businesses currently downtown will be able to survive after the project’s completion.

Etsi Bravo co-owner Cory Preston said the majority of downtown businesses will not be able to survive the project as it stands.

“I don’t think there’s a person in this room that could say downtown Pullman doesn’t need an upgrade,” Preston said. “I think it’s clear there are logical and viable alternatives to the current plan that won’t be terminal for our downtown businesses.”

After the public comment portion, the council moved on to the agenda, which only included accepting the bid of Apollo Inc. for the project, authorizing execution and delivering the contract for the project.

Clayton Forsmann, deputy public works director, said the contract generally consists of improvements to East Main St. from Grand Ave to Spring St, including water, sewer and storm drain utility work, full road and sidewalk reconstruction and landscaping and street furniture.

“In summary, Apollo Inc’s base bid total is $8,678,907.59,” Forsmann said. “This is 11% above the engineer’s estimate.”

Forsmann said the bid proposal included various bid additives for work that could be added to the base bid or could be split out and completed at a later date. The council can award any combination of the bid additives and there is no obligation to award any of the bid additives.

Forsmann said the project schedule allows the contractor to start as early as April 1 with a substantial completion deadline of Nov. 1. In addition, the contract includes a set milestone that Main St. will be fully open to traffic by Oct. 15.

“The project was originally proposed to be funded entirely with American Rescue Plan Act, federal funds. Those funds total just north of $9.5 million,” he said. “Today all project costs are estimated at about $11.7 million absent any of those bid additives.”

Forsmann said the resolution will award the downtown improvements contract to Apollo Inc. and will give the council full flexibility to award any combination of bid additives in addition to the base bid.

After Forsmann’s presentation, Benjamin said council members may ask any questions related to the bid to staff.

Council member Nathan Weller asked if splitting the work over two summers would be possible. The current contract does not include such an option.

Council member Megan Guido asked if the project was projected to take either six months or eight months. Forsmann said the contractor would begin working April 1 and the milestone to fully open Main St is Oct. 15, making it about six and a half months.

Guido said citizens want input where they can on the design and asked if there will be an opportunity for citizens to provide input on the design at some point. City administrator Mike Urban said he would like to have a meeting to hear that input, but questioned at what point would it be cut off.

“If there’s change orders and change orders and change orders and we want to get a schedule, I would ask the council for guidance. At what point would you like to say ‘this is a place where we need to go forward with the project as it’s currently designed,’?” Urban said.

After the questioning session, the council began to discuss the resolution amongst themselves. Council member Eric Fejeran praised the staff in their efforts.

“I want to acknowledge our downtown businesses,” Fejeran said. “[I] agree that a thriving downtown is not just desirable but essential for the growth of Pullman.”

Fejeran said he does not believe the project aligns with Pullman’s financial situation and needs of the community. Because of this, he chose to not support awarding the project bid in its current form.

Council member Pat Wright said the council and citizens of Pullman should try to support downtown businesses during construction. Downtown is the one area of town that keeps Pullman from achieving greatness.

“A once in a lifetime opportunity has presented [itself] to change that, thus enabling Pullman to make that leap from good to great,” Wright said. “Concerns have been heard, alternatives have been studied and hundreds of hours have been invested in listening to and evaluating citizens and special interest groups’ comments. It’s clear no project is perfect and pleasing everyone all the time is impossible.”

Guido said it will be negligent of the council to not address the infrastructure issues and there will never be a perfect time to fix them.

“We need to realize that we have a limited amount of ARPA and city funds to account for any changes,” Guido said. “Postponing the project and paying for a redesign is not practical.”

Guido said if people want to save downtown Pullman they should shop local and do what they can to make this project successful.

Council member Ann Parks said members of the council are public servants and do care. They are committed to helping downtown businesses and they need to work together.

“Whatever decision is made, then we need to work together and I’m telling you that as a board and a staff that’s what we’re here to do if you believe it or not,” Parks said.

Council member Carla De Lira said she appreciated everyone on city staff for putting in the work on this project on top of the daily operations of the city. She wanted to make sure she cast an informed vote on the issue and looked to those who will be impacted by the project.

“I have talked to business owners, their employees and concerned community members who support them and I definitely heard a wide range of thoughts,” De Lira said. “One of the things that became apparent in my conversations in downtown is the lack of communication they have received.”

De Lira said she often heard concerns from business owners regarding the threat of going out of business, losing their job and their thoughts and ideas not being implemented. As a result, she can not advocate for the project as it currently stands.

Weller said he will continue going downtown whether the bid is accepted or not. He has met with individuals and groups for years ranging in topics from saving the trees to the businesses downtown.

“These ideas, research and suggestions have resulted in significant improvements in the project and helped to broaden my knowledge while also providing unique solutions the city can utilize in this and future projects,” Weller said.

Weller said there is a lot of fear and uncertainty made more problematic by the lack of a solid plan. While he can not predict the future, he knows the sidewalks need to be fixed and there needs to be handicapped parking.

“As a public servant, I … must consider the entire city and be fiscally responsible, which means often that I need to be more risk adverse than I normally would be,” he said.

After their discussion, the council voted 5-2 to add the additive to reinstall the old pavers to the contract. The resolution then came to a vote and the motion passed.

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About the Contributor
JOSIAH PIKE, Evergreen news co-editor
Josiah is a sophomore broadcast journalism and broadcast production double major. He is from Lakewood, Washington and began working for the Evergreen in Fall 2021.