By John McCallum
Managing Editor 

Storage facility was not what city paid for

Council approves contract to rectify roof contractor construction errors


Last updated 2/20/2020 at 10:53am

CHENEY – Sometimes the low bid isn’t always the best bid.

The city of Cheney received a reminder of this to the tune of a $42,429 bid for work replacing the metal roof of a covered storage facility for the Light Department at the Utility Building on Anderson Road. Originally bid in April 2018 at a price of $96,900, the contractor, Itasca Construction, was found to be in default after an inspection revealed the structure’s roof failed to meet the manufacturer’s — Metal Building Assemblies — guidelines and could not be warranted.

To get the building to a useable state, the city solicited a bid from Halme Construction of Davenport, Wash., for replacing the metal roof per the manufacturer’s standards. According to bid documents, Halme is an accredited Metal Building Assemblies contractor.

The City Council approved the contract with Halme to repair the roof at its meeting Tuesday, Feb. 11. The work will be paid for with $11,484.78 in remaining project funds, and $30,944.84 from a $39,201.84 agreement with Itasca’s bonding company, United Casualty and Surety Insurance Company — with the remaining amount going towards covering attorney fees.

Public Works Director Todd Ableman said not only was the original roof damaged during construction, which prevented its warranty, but that damage was not limited to just the roof.

“There are some structural things that we need to address,” he said.

“The project was a fiasco from the start,” City Administrator Mark Schuller said, adding city staff watched the construction “like a hawk” and could see issues developing as the structure went up.

Also bidding with Itasca in 2018 was Ginno Construction at $123,300, Western States Construction at $183,175 and Skinner Steel and Construction at $239,552. All four contractors bid on alternative 1 for construction of an additional storage bay, but only Itasca did not bid on a total hourly cost for crew and equipment for unanticipated work under alternative 2.

Also at the meeting, the council approved a $21,000 yearly contract with Columbia Rural Electric Association for safety training for Light Department personnel. Light Department Director Steve Marx said they have been using another firm for the training, and decided to go with CREA not out of dissatisfaction with the current provider but to “keep things fresh” by switching up the training curriculum every few years.

“It’s gotten stale,” Marx said. “I want to spice things up a bit. That’s the dynamic we’re looking for.”

Councilman John Taves expressed concern about wording in the contract surrounding mediation, arbitration and associated attorney fees. One section of the agreement for mediation and arbitration called for equal sharing of any mediator and/or arbitrator fees and costs, while a later section for attorney fees allowed any prevailing party in a dispute to recover “reasonable” attorney fees and costs as determined by a court.

Taves felt the equal sharing language under arbitration and mediation should be extended to the section addressing attorney fees. City attorney Stanley Schwartz said these were different aspects of the contract, noting that if arbitration and mediation aren’t resolved there is likely a significant dispute between the parties involved.

“The idea there (attorney fees) is to create a disincentive to continue a fight,” Schwartz said.

No changes were made to the language and the council approved the contract as written.

Finally, council approved a memorandum of correction to remove a parcel of land incorrectly listed as city property under the2008 agreement establishing Cheney’s Commerce and Industrial Park. The development agreement incorrectly included the All Pak facility parcel, and should have only referenced “raw land” owned by the plant’s parent company, AE Cheney Land LLC.

John McCallum can be reached at

Author Bio

John McCallum, Managing Editor

John McCallum is an award-winning journalist who has been with the Cheney Free Press for over 20 years. He has received 10 Washington Newspaper Publisher Association awards for journalism and photography, including first place awards for Best Investigative, Best News and back-to-back awards in Best Breaking News categories. He has been serving as editor of the Spokane Valley News Herald since March 2020.

Phone: 509-235-6184
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