Tacoma Totem Pole: 2 contractors emerge in stabilization project re-bid

Two contractors have submitted bids to stabilize the 110-year-old historic Tacoma Totem Pole in Fireman’s Park in downtown Tacoma.

The $50,000 project was originally put out for bid in late-February, and one contractor responded before the deadline expired on March 31: MVG, LLC (Maple Valley, Wash.) — $63,100. Earlier this month, however, the City put the project back out for bid, and two contractors submitted bids before the deadline expired on April 16: T. Miller Construction (Auburn, Wash.) — $58,500; and MVG, LLC (Maple Valley, Wash.) — $63,100.

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(NOTE: The City of Tacoma’s Web site appears to indicate the contract has been awarded to T. Miller Construction. However, the Tacoma Daily Index has reached out to the City of Tacoma project manager to confirm this information and find out when work is scheduled to begin. This post will be updated when more information is available.)

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The pole, which stands 82-feet-six-inches tall, was carved by Alaskan Indians on Vashon Island and installed in Tacoma in 1903. According to Metro Parks Tacoma, it stood for decades near South 10th and A Streets, but was moved to Fireman’s Park, located at South 9th and A Streets, in 1953. The pole includes carved images of an eagle, killer whale, raven, grizzly bear, and wolf. It was designated an historic landmark in 1975 and is now part of the city’s collection of public art.

Last year, City of Tacoma engineers raised safety concerns over the structural integrity of the totem pole after two engineers with PCS Structural Solutions, a firm contracted by the City of Tacoma, found enough “soft wet deteriorated wood” and “significant deterioration” that the pole’s seismic stability has been compromised by at least 50 per cent. As a result, Tacoma’s public works director ordered the totem pole be stabilized immediately and the surrounding park area to be fenced off.

“This is a historic structure and the work is extremely sensitive,” wrote City of Tacoma staff in bid documents prepared for the project. “Caution will be required to avoid damaging the pole while trying to install bracing and a steel pole behind the existing Totem Pole. The pole is compromised due to natural aging, wet conditions, and past infestations of carpenter ants. The pole was treated and there are currently no carpenter ants believed to be present. The pole has significant void spaces and wood rot in at least the first 15′ (ground up). Additional void space and wood rot may be present at higher elevations as well. The work preformed should be by an experienced crane operator with maximum protection provided.”

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To read the Tacoma Daily Index’s complete and comprehensive coverage of the historic Tacoma Totem Pole, click on the following links: