Windjammer Park will be closed for work this summer

Much of Windjammer Park will be closed this summer while crews do restoration and improvement work.

Oak Harbor City Council members approved a bid package for the sewage treatment plant Tuesday that will allow the work on the adjacent park to move forward.

Oak Harbor Mayor Bob Severns explained after the meeting that the waterfront trail will remain open, but fences will go up around “a good share of the rest of the park” in mid-May. Dirt from the large piles will be distributed throughout the park and those areas will be replanted.

Severns said the city will reopen the closed-off areas of the park as possible. All the areas should be reopened by the spring of 2019.

Tuesday, the council had many questions and comments about the project. Ultimately, the council voted 4-2 to accept the final bid packages, totaling $16 million, for the sewage treatment plant. The work includes restoration and improvements to the park, which was torn up during construction, as well as demolition of the bank building and the final pieces of the treatment plant project.

Councilmen Joel Servatius and Jim Woessner, two members who voted against the measure, each raised concerns about the cost. Servatius said he supports the “must haves” that are part of the bids, but believes there must be a better way to do the rest.

“I support the concept we are going for here,” Servatius said. “I just can’t support the price.”

Woessner said many residents don’t know about the planned closure, and the city should do more to alert the community. He also said he wanted to ensure the contractors are “geared up” to get the work done as swiftly as possible.

City Engineer Joe Stowell said final estimate for the plant is $148 million, though a couple of consultant contracts might increase that by a relatively small amount.

The sewer plant is being built through a process called general contractor / construction manager, or GC/CM. Under the process, the city bids out a series of packages, or a “guaranteed maximum price” contracts, for different work throughout the project.

The final bid package splits the work into two categories which are funded in different ways. Some work is considered part of the larger project and will be funded through sewage treatment fees that users pay. The other is optional projects that would be funded through the general fund.

The bids came in higher than the engineer’s estimate and the optional projects were pared. The open space in the park will be restored and a splash park will be added. The city applied to Island County for economic development grants to fund a $1.2-million kitchen and a $700,000 pavilion.

Severns and council members noted that the community was promised an improved park by the end of the project; they said they were determined to keep that promise.

“I think the citizens expect more,” Severns said. “I think they expect a better park.”

Woessner, however, questioned whether the park will really be improved.

“Sounds to me like if we don’t get this county grant,” he said, “we’re going to end up with no kitchen on the west side of the park, no RV park, no gazebo, no auditorium.”

“I kind of feel like we’re going backwards,” he added.

Councilwoman Erica Wasinger said she feels better about the cost after doing some research. She explained that the city of Redmond was developing two acres into a park at a cost of $41.2 million.

Oak Harbor’s project, by comparison, is 12.5 acres for a fraction of the cost.

“It’s something I feel more comfortable with now,” she said.

Councilwoman Beth Munns said the community wanted to build something that will last and that the costs are not out of line.

“We have the Cadillac. It’s not a Maserati,” she said. “But we definitely went for the Cadillac.”