RICHLAND -- Officials from the Richland Public Facilities District are anxious to start moving dirt for the Hanford Reach Interpretive Center for a number of reasons -- not the least of which is to beef up public confidence in the project.
"We would like to schedule a ground breaking as soon as possible," project CEO Kimberly Camp told board members Monday. "We have a bit of a public relations problem."
There are positive developments on the horizon for the $40 million interpretive center, she said. The facilities district is close to having the permits in hand to start installing water and sewer lines and building a road and parking lot on the Columbia Park west site where the museum eventually will stand.
But there also are decisions to be made by the board, such as whether to hire a consulting firm to manage the project or to put someone on staff.
The meat of Monday's discussion centered on the issue of project management as the board considered a more than $900,000 proposal from a Spokane firm called Hill International -- a proposal that board members said was significantly higher than they expected.
New board member Rick Jansons -- appointed just a few weeks ago by the Richland City Council -- questioned whether hiring a firm is necessary or if the facilities district could employ a staff member to oversee the project at a lower cost.
He also asked if a Tri-City project management consultant might be more economical, because someone local wouldn't require travel costs.
Camp explained that the board initially received 10 proposals after advertising throughout the Northwest, and a committee had narrowed and evaluated them until deciding Hill International was the best company for the job.
She added that all the companies had more or less the same rates.
Board member Nick Ceto asked for more information about specific tasks the consulting firm would perform during construction, partly to ensure the district wasn't paying the consultant to do the same work as city traffic engineer Steve Stairs, who is working on the first phase of construction involving the road and utilities.
Camp said Stairs sits on the committee that evaluated the proposals and talked to Hill International about what he does and what they would do, and believed duplication of efforts would be avoided.
Camp said she would provide the board with a draft of the proposed contract with Hill and with more details about what the firm would do during each phase of construction.
The board will discuss the proposed contract again later this month.
Camp also noted that the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation have expressed lingering concerns about the project's planned location in the west end of Columbia Park, namely that archeological testing that yielded no significant cultural findings were insufficient.
Camp said she is trying to set up a public meeting with the board and the tribe to resolve any issues, but added that's another reason to get shovels in the ground. "It makes me think we want to get something started sooner rather than later," she said.
-- Michelle Dupler: 582-1543; email@example.com