Document 52: Slow Progress of Regrade

Uptown Seattle Association to W. D. Barkhuff, City Engineer, 6 August 1929 and W. D. Barkhuff to George Nelson and Co., 7 October 1929, Local Improvement District 4818. Seattle Municipal Government, Engineering Department, Local Improvement District Files, Seattle Municipal Archives, Office of the City Clerk, Control No. 2600-00, Microform, Letters, Folder 1.

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Uptown Seattle Association [Matthew W. Hill, Executive Secretary], to W. D. Barkhuff, 6 August 1929, forwarded to Mayor Edwards requesting conference on “slow progress of the work on the Denny Hill Regrade.”

We note that your receipts show that the work is now 17% completed when it should be 44%. That as much as 17% has been completed is due of course, to the large percentage of the ‘clearing’ that has been done, as less than 6% of the dirt has been moved.

To the lay mind that one items of $250,000 for clearing seems so much out of proportion to the actual expense involved, that some have suggested that it was the intention of the contractor to draw down his pay for the ‘clearing’ less the reserve, then throw up the contract and leave it to the city and the bonding agency to fight it out.

You are in a better position than anyone else to know whether or not there is any likelihood of that; however, it has occurred to us that if there was any way to withhold the monthly payments on estimates until the contractors had brought the work up somewhere near your schedule that they might be stimulated to a genuine effort to complete the work on schedule time instead of falling further behind each month (they were 25% behind at the end of June, and 27% at the end of July).

There is also one question which we would like to ask of you: is there any reason why the ordinary steam shovels available in Seattle might not have been used on this job while they were waiting for the electric shovels or any reason why they cannot be used to supplement the electric shovels, if it becomes apparent to you that the electrics cannot do the work fast enough to enable the contract to be completed on time?

We would also like to take this opportunity of expressing our appreciate for the courteous consideration and cooperation which the members of your office have always extended to the representatives of our association. We feel that your office is the chief safeguard that the property owners in the regrade area have against the heavy losses which they will sustain unless the work is completed promptly.

W. D. Barkhuff to George Nelson and Co., 7 October 1929

If the possibilities of your plant had been to run to capacity, allowing 120 days for installation on a basis of 22 hours for each working day, at the rate of 600 cubic yards per hour, with 371 days elapsed since June 25, 1928, when you were ordered to begin work, deducting 60 days for Sundays and holidays, leaving a net total of 191 possible working days—with and output of 13,200 cubic yards per day, you would have moved up to the present time 2,521,000 cubic yards.

As a matter of fact the work actually accomplished gives you credit for 480,180 cubic yards over the conveyor system, 58,920 cubic yards other than over the conveyor system, plus 4,366 cubic yards moved by Moceri in the fill portion, making a total of 543,466 cubic yards. The conveyor yardage is computed at 300 cubic yards per scow load.

The above totaled quantities divided by possible 191 working days, gives an average of 2,845 cubic yards per day, or 130 cubic yards per hour…

Thirty-two percent of the elapsed time above was lost on account of various shovel ‘downs’…between September 15th and October 2nd, the elapsed time was 14 working days. During this time 120,300 cubic yards were moved or an average of 8600 cubic yards per day. This is the best average yet obtained….

This letter is written to call your attention to the figures on the delays on this work at this time. In view of the progress that is being made on your contract, it is very evident that you will not be able to secure an extension of time. This being a local improvement contract if you are unable to secure an extension of time, it means that no estimates will issue until the job goes final. In other words, the City will pay for no work performed between the time set for the finishing of the contract and the time it is actually completed, the final payment issuing with the final estimate.

Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest