Langley officials deny favoritism with engineering contract

Langley officials denied allegations made by resident and business owner David Price that the city hasn’t properly followed state law regarding the bidding and awarding of contracts.

In a letter sent to the mayor, Langley City Council members and the media, Price alleged the city operated without a valid contract with Pace Engineers from 2015 through 2018, a finding he said he confirmed though the state Auditor’s Office.

Price also said the city appears to be favoring Pace Engineers to be the firm of choice for a $7-million infrastructure project proposed to replace aging water and sewer lines.

“With an estimated budget of $7 million, engineering fees on this new infrastructure project will run into the millions of dollars,” Price wrote. “Pace may be the best firm for the job (or parts of it), but there must be a proper selection process, oversight and cost controls.”

Price cited several examples where he said the city has gone over budget on street and sidewalk projects and paid engineering fees that are almost twice as high as those paid in similar jurisdictions.

At a city council meeting last week, Public Works department director Stan Berryman assured council members that the city isn’t violating any state codes or bidding regulations.

“We’re fully compliant with RCW (Revised Code of Washington) statutes,” Berryman said. “We executed a contract with Pace in the past.”

Berryman explained that the process for selecting companies to work on the infrastructure project involves putting a call out for “request for qualifications,” or RFQ, as opposed to “request for bids.”

“We’ll go ahead an issue an RFQ and convene a section panel,” Berryman said. “We’ll pick based on qualifications and then negotiate a bid.”

The city has also applied for an Island County grant to help pay for the massive project.

“We need engineering services even to apply for grants,” Berryman said. “It’s very appropriate to do it and it’s an even more efficient and effective way to do it.”

In his letter, Price said that Pace Engineers is often referred to as the “city engineer,” but company employees are not city employees, he wrote.

“They are a private, for-profit business (with their own motivations that may not always align with the interests of Langley’s citizens and taxpayers) that the city hires for services. Proper contracts and project budgets should be in place,” Price wrote.

Mayor Tim Callison said Pace is referred to as city engineer for past projects because the city doesn’t have its own engineering department.

“They have been our engineer with contracts approved by council,” Callison said.

He added that if the public approves a mill levy for the infrastructure project, “we will go out for competitive bidding.”

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