Martinac out of ferry job?
A Tacoma shipyard could be dropped today from the group of companies splitting $115 million to build Washington a ferry.
State lawmakers from Pierce County want J.M. Martinac Shipbuilding Corp. to remain a subcontractor on the project and have asked Gov. Chris Gregoire to intervene on the company’s behalf.
Martinac had expected to outfit the 144-car vessel with electrical, heating and cooling systems and other finishing touches. But the lead contractor, Portland-based Vigor Industrial, says it can do the work cheaper at its Everett subsidiary.
Vigor gave Martinac until today to lower its $25 million price or be dropped, Vigor spokesman Steve Hirsh said. Gregoire said she expects Martinac to make a counter-offer.
“I don’t consider them out at all,” she said.
Gregoire in 2007 helped negotiate an agreement between companies that made Seattle-based Todd Pacific Shipyards the main contractor building Washington ferries. Previously, Martinac had fought a state decision favoring Todd and won, prompting the Legislature to step in and call for a unified bid.
Vigor bought Todd Pacific this year and negotiated a $115 million price for the first ferry – part of an overall budget of $147 million. Lawmakers funded the first ferry last winter with the aim of carrying commuters by 2014.
Among the companies sharing the work, Hirsh said, are Whidbey Island’s Nichols Bros. Boat Builders – which is building the upper part of the vessel – and Tacoma’s Jesse Engineering, which is building the fore and aft entrance points for cars.
Vigor said its subsidiary Everett Shipyard could do the final outfitting for less than $15 million, but says Martinac wouldn’t budge.
“We have been talking to them over weeks and weeks and weeks saying, ‘Look, we think this is a $15 million project, not a $25 million project,’” Hirsh said Monday. “We don’t have enough leeway in this budget that we’re going to be able to eat $10 million in unnecessary expense.”
Martinac didn’t return phone calls Monday about the possibility of a counter-offer. But vice president Jonathan Platt said Friday that the company doesn’t think it’s being treated fairly and has asked state lawmakers to step in.
Platt said the ferry job would create 100 jobs in Pierce County over 212 days in 2013.
“It’s a great job,” Platt said, “and it’s a lot of hours, and it’s important to our people.”
Led by Rep. Larry Seaquist of Gig Harbor and joined by County Executive Pat McCarthy, lawmakers wrote a letter to Gregoire on Friday asking for her “immediate, personal intervention.”
“From the beginning, even Todd Pacific before they were sold seemed to be trying to push Martinac out of the deal,” said Seaquist, a Democrat who represents many communities that depend on ferries. “We hate to see this conniving end up pulling those jobs out and give them to someplace else, or even to out-of-state workers.”
Lawmakers wrote that some workers would be “imported” from Portland.
Hirsh said he couldn’t promise that all workers would be from Washington, only that all of it would take place in Washington and use union labor. But he said that when Everett Shipyard did similar work building smaller 64-car ferries for the state, only a tiny fraction of the work was done by out-of-state workers – “something like less than a quarter of a percent.”
The Democratic governor said it’s not her place to intrude on negotiations between a contractor and its subcontractors.
“I wrote a note back to my policy folks (saying), ‘Intercede and do what?’” Gregoire said Monday. “We’re waiting for their counter (offer).”
Jordan Schrader: 360-786-1826