Photos by Steve Shay
Burien/Normandy Park Fire Chief Mike Marrs gave a tour of the yet-to-be-opened Burien station to the Highline Times May 23, focusing on three key problems causing delays, & a possible lawsuit against the contractor. Marrs is pictured in top photo on the roof to show widespread puddling. The roof is not sloped enough to allow drainage. Drain is seen at far left. Middle photo is exterior brickwork with a line of rust caused by rebar placed too close to the surface, 3/4" instead of the regulation 1 1/2". Far right, the five sets of red vertical doors are warped. Bottom photo shows water leaking in between warped vertical doors.

Burien's new fire station is eroding, & so is the dept.'s relationship with contractor

The Burien Fire Department seems to be on a life-saving mission to rescue its new station at 900 SW 146th St. The state-of-the-art, but yet-to-be-opened, facility is plagued with infrastructure problems, from the massive roof, which hosts numerous stagnant puddles, to the 28-foot high brick facade, with rebar rusting through more than two hundred large brick sections, to those bright red vertical "apparatus bay" doors, each one warped at the seal.

The building cost the public $8.6 million, $9.2 million with tax. However, costs continue to mount as specialty contractors and architects work to identify the failing features, and try to find a fix, if there is one.

Burien/Normandy Park Fire Department Chief Mike Marrs gave a tour of the station to the Highline Times Wednesday, May 23, focusing on the key problems causing delays. He said every expert they have hired to examine the structure agrees with the departments' specific claims of structural faults.

The Department blames its contractor, Mercer Island-based Bayley Construction which has offered some temporary fixes Marrs strongly feels falls short, including a patch job on the brick facade work "you can notice from several feet away," he said, shaking his head in disappointment. He said that "it all goes back to the contractor. We're working with them trying to get this resolved," adding, "This is probably their last opportunity at an inexpensive fix." Although he cannot give specifics, one senses a lawsuit in the air.

"I would love to be in this station, but the reality is we're not going to take ownership until it's right and we've spent the public's money wisely," said Marrs with determination. "We're not going to cut corners, and if it takes a while to resolve, then that's what it is. We're not going to accept factory seconds that will give us immediate problems and give us even bigger problems in 10 years that will cost the public hundreds of thousands of dollars down the road.

"Every two weeks on Tuesday nights we have a King County Fire District 2 Commissioner Meeting, and this is on their agenda each time," Marrs said of the construction problems. "It's a huge issue for us. I would say we are at an impasse with the contractor now and we are taking legal steps to move forward to brake that impasse."

Beginning with the roof, puddles, puddles everywhere, on top of a wrongly-graded roof. Not enough slope. Gravity was not gettin' er' done even though plenty of corner drains awaited the rainwater's arrival.

The big-ticket item is the exterior masonry, with three types of precast brick that contain ill-placed rebar, including about 180 bullnose pieces at eye-level, another 152 large cornice pieces that necklace the building's top, and numerous "lintel" pieces, brickwork that frames the windows top and bottom.

Regulation requires the rebar be set an inch-and-a-half from the surface. However, some rebar is exposed along the surface, already rusting. A couple of hundred more contain rebar in the three-quarter-inch range, all according to specialty contractor they hired with a radar testing machine.

The third major flop, and you don't need a radar to spot this, are the warped "apparatus bay" doors, with a vertical slice of light that seeps through, and more puddling entering the garage where the doors should meet tight at ground level. They are not in the same plane and don't meet, and buckle, mostly at the bottom. They are designed to open and close swiftly, somewhat like automatic glass doors at a hotel lobby entrance.

"Why we went with these apparatus doors and not the (traditional) roll-up doors is because, at this size, it would take 15 to 25 seconds for roll-up doors to open up, and less than 10 seconds for these to open," he said. "This cuts down our response time.

"These doors are supposed to be plumb, level and square within an eighth of an inch over a 20-foot span," said Marrs, pointing to the wide gap. "These vary up to about an inch and a half. We agree with Bayley that the factory didn't build the doors correctly, but he doesn't believe this lets Bayley off the hook.

Added Marrs, referring to Bayley Construction's fixes thus far, "All their attempts have been dramatically underwhelming to say the least, and you can't get 'any more least.'"

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