Pierce County is waiting to hear how much a contractor says it will cost to delay work on four projects related to Chambers Bay Golf Course, the embattled public course under construction in University Place.
It could be as high as the "six-figure range" to postpone work for up to a month, said Public Works Director Brian Ziegler. But County Executive John Ladenburg is hopeful the delay will end up being only a few days and the extra cost minimal.
Construction is continuing for now on the high-end waterfront course. But work on four projects related to it - an entry road, a trail, infrastructure and grading for a maintenance building - will stop Jan. 1 as a result of a decision last week by the Pierce County Council.
In a surprise move, council members voted unanimously to keep millions of dollars frozen in the county budget. They complained that Ladenburg hadn't kept them well enough informed about the projects.
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As a result, Ladenburg now has no authority to proceed with work on the four projects after Dec. 31, golf course project manager Tony Tipton said in a letter to course builder Heritage Links.
The letter put Heritage on notice that work on those parts of the project will stop at the end of the year, and asked for a cost estimate for a delay that Tipton said is expected to last through part of January and possibly longer.
The letter also asked for a description of how a delay would impact the overall construction schedule. The Scottish links-style course is planned to open in May 2007.
Heritage was asked to reply by Friday, but officials had not heard from them as of Friday morning, Ziegler said.
REVISED CONTRACT POSSIBLE
County officials are hoping the council will release some of the frozen money early next year. Many of the projects are "necessary in some form for the golf course to open, " Tipton wrote.
The letter also acknowledges funding for some parts of the project might never gain approval. In that case, the county would need to revise its contract with Houston-based Heritage.
The county's legal ability to do that became an issue last month after the County Council balked at Ladenburg's proposed 2006 county budget.
It included funding requests for $3.8 million worth of work in addition to the $20.8 million golf course bond that council members approved in September, prompting council members to question whether Ladenburg had the legal authority to enter into the contract.
Ladenburg said he did nothing wrong because the contract includes a clause that allows the county to remove projects from the contract if the funding is not approved.
He said he included the extra work in the contract with the golf course builder because it will be less expensive to do now while the contractor is on the site working on the golf course. But the extra work doesn't primarily benefit the golf course, he said.
COUNCIL MEETS JAN. 10
Since the council vote, Ladenburg said he's met with Council Chairman Shawn Bunney (R-Lake Tapps) and Councilman Terry Lee (R-Gig Harbor) to discuss how to unfreeze some money in January.
They've discussed bringing a resolution to the council at its first meeting of the year Jan. 10 that would provide money for work on the road, infrastructure and trail, Ladenburg said.
His staff is prepared to give detailed briefings to council members on all of the frozen projects before the meeting, he said. Discussions could take place later in the month regarding a pair of proposed parks, a maintenance building and other work on the Chambers Creek Properties that Ladenburg had been pushing.
Chambers Bay Golf Course is intended to generate revenue to help pay for further development of the 930-acre site. The county bought most of the property - the site of a gravel mine - in the early 1990s because it needed room to expand the Chambers Creek wastewater treatment plant.
But the sewer utility needed only about 210 acres, leaving the rest of the property available to develop for public uses, including parks, trails and beach access.