Frustrated Pierce County Council members are threatening to stall construction of a sewer maintenance facility needed for Chambers Bay Golf Course, a move that could delay the course opening.
A resolution scheduled to go before the council tonight would free up money for several projects that the council halted last month, including an entry road, infrastructure and a trail that winds through the Chambers Creek Properties in University Place.
But it does not include funding for several other projects that County Executive John Ladenburg is pushing, including a pair of parks and a sewer department maintenance facility that the golf course planned to share during the first several years of its operation.
If the council does not approve spending for the maintenance building now, it would delay its construction for at least three months, Public Works Director Brian Ziegler said.
It's not clear how that might affect the golf course, which is under construction and scheduled to open in May 2007.
If the council ended up approving the building sometime next spring, the county would attempt to expedite construction, Ziegler said. Officials also would consider building a temporary golf course maintenance building.
But if the schedule is delayed too much, it could affect the course opening, officials said.
Members of the council's Rules and Operations Committee were preparing Monday to consider a pair of amendments to tonight's resolution, including one that would have provided some money for the maintenance building.
The original resolution included money only for the entry road and site infrastructure.
But Councilman Calvin Goings (D-Puyallup) grew frustrated with the answers he received from officials about the maintenance building. He wanted to know why the county already spent $300,000 on design work for a project that hadn't received council scrutiny.
"I no longer have faith in this Public Works Department to oversee the golf course, " Goings said before withdrawing his support for the two amendments.
Council Chairman Shawn Bunney (R-Lake Tapps) also said he wouldn't support the maintenance building amendment, leaving the three-member committee without a majority.
Goings went on to blast a project he said is full of "accounting gimmicks."
"I think the council has been left out of every key decision, " Goings said. "Over and over again, the council has been left out of the loop."
The flare-up marked the second time in three weeks that council members have clashed with Ladenburg's staff over spending on the golf course and related projects.
Afterward, Ladenburg defended the sewer maintenance building plan, as well as the entire project. He said Goings missed the point that the sewer utility would end up saving money by leasing space to the golf course.
And he said that some council members - including Goings - aren't sufficiently familiar with construction contracts, which typically change over the course of a project as officials look for ways to save money by "value engineering."
"We have been more than forthcoming to the council, " Ladenburg said.
Bunney voted in favor of an amendment restoring money for the trail and for some grading work for the maintenance facility
But he also criticized county officials for putting the council in a position where they were forced to approve spending to keep the project on track.
And he said Ladenburg may have crossed a line by entering into a contract with the golf course builder for work that the council had not approved.
"It's very murky as to where that line is, " Bunney said. "Clearly we're awful doggone close to it."
The contract with Heritage Links included projects costing approximately $3.8 million more than the $20.8 million bond the council approved for the golf course.
Ladenburg said the additional work will benefit the entire property, not just the golf course. Doing the work now while the contractor is already on site working on the golf course will save about $500,000 he said.
Ladenburg said he did nothing wrong with respect to the contract, noting that the same type of contract has been used on dozens of other county contracts.
Ladenburg added that he was disappointed that the council committee "virtually ignored" a possible substitute resolution prepared by members of his staff and the county council staff.
It sought to restore funding not only for the entry road, infrastructure and trail, but also design work on a reclaimed water project, a pair of parks, and nearly $4 million for construction of the maintenance building.