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Notice of Buy America Waiver Request

Action: Notice, request for comments.

Web posting date: 09/13/2023

Close of the initial public comment period: 09/28/2023

Federal Register Notice of Finding Publication Date: To be determined.

Effective Date of Federal Register: To be determined.

Close of public comment period on the Notice of Finding: 5 days following the effective date.

Summary:

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is seeking comments on whether a waiver of the Buy America requirements for steel and iron, under 23 CFR § 635.410(b) should be granted to permit the use of non-domestic iron and steel components in manufactured products in the Mount Vernon Library Commons Project (Project) in the City of Mount Vernon, Washington. The waiver relates specifically to manufactured products that are part of the elevator equipment; mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems; and architectural elements of the Project. The products, which are further detailed in the attachments1, include: (i) elevator conveying equipment; (ii) elevator sump pump; (iii) HVAC controls; (iv) hydronic pumps; (v) energy recovery ventilators; (vi) split system A/C; (vii) coalescing style air and sediment separator; (viii) air source water heat pumps; (ix) fan coil units Nailor; (x) fan coil units Daikin; (xi) switchboards; (xii) panelboards; (xiii) an intercom system; (xiv) an AV system wall rack; (xv) heat pump water heaters; (xvi) a backflow preventer; (xvii) metal wall and roof panel fasteners; (xviii) terracotta fasteners; (xix) a retractable acoustic wall; (xx) a folding glass panel partition; (xxi) electric bike charging lockers; (xxii) uni-strut fasteners; and (xxiii) a fire alarm system.

The Project is a multi-story structure that includes multiple civic elements including a public parking garage, public library, community center, meeting rooms, commercial kitchen, public restrooms, STEM center, and public computing area. The project also incorporates EV charging infrastructure into the garage.

The City of Mount Vernon and its contractor contacted numerous manufacturers of the products included in the waiver request. The city and its consultants also conducted an independent search for these products with distributors and manufacturers, and by contacting smaller but reputable manufacturers with whom they have previously worked with, to locate Buy America complaint products. The City of Mount Vernon, the City’s contractor, and the City’s consultants were unable to locate any domestic manufacturers or fabricators of the above listed products that were able to provide Buy America compliant products that satisfy the Project’s design needs.

While the City of Mount Vernon has not secured funding from FHWA yet, it is seeking credit assistance from the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program and has applied for funds from the Charging and Fueling Infrastructure Discretionary Grant Program. If a waiver for these products cannot be granted, the City has explained that it may have to forego using FHWA funding.

Under 23 U.S.C. § 313(b) and 23 CFR § 635.410(c), FHWA may consider a Buy America waiver when either (1) the application of the requirements under 23 U.S.C. § 313(b) and 23 CFR § 635.410(c) would be inconsistent with the public interest; or (2) when products are not produced in the United States in sufficient and reasonably available quantities of a satisfactory quality.

The FHWA will consider all comments received in the initial 15-day comment period during our evaluation of the waiver request. Comments received after this period, but before notice of our finding is published in the Federal Register, will be considered to the extent practical. Follow-up coordination on the comments received may result in a delay in the publication of our waiver finding in the Federal Register. Comments received during the 15-day comment period after notice of our finding is published in the Federal Register will be reviewed, but the finding will continue to remain valid. Comments received during the comment period after the effective date of the finding will be reviewed, and may influence the FHWA's decision to terminate or modify a finding.

City of Mount Vernon contact: Chris Phillips, Public Works Director
E-mail: mvmayor@mountvernonwa.gov
Phone: (360) 336-6211

Request Letter (.pdf, 1.1 mb)
List of waiver items (.pdf, 563 kb)

1 While the City of Mount Vernon’s Buy America Waiver Request features twenty-four items, the City later explained that it is no longer seeking a waiver for the floor sinks or glycol feeder included in that document. The City further stated that it was seeking a waiver for electric bike charging lockers, which were not included in the Buy America Waiver Request document. An updated list of the twenty-three items the City is seeking a waiver for is attached.

Comments

Mary Hudson 09/13/2023
Please support this waiver as it is important to help make projects like this move forward. Sometimes they have components that just aren't available in the US, this request is a small percentage of the entire project. Thank you.

Richard Brocksmith 09/13/2023
Please support this waiver request. It's important to help us finish our Library Commons project in Mount Vernon!

Peter Donovan 09/14/2023
This waiver will pave the way for funding that provides American workers with good paying jobs to complete a vital community project that will open the door for equitable opportunities in an economically distressed area. Please support this waiver and the domestic interests that it protects.

David Jobs 09/14/2023
I fully support this waiver and agree it should be granted for the following reasons: -Complex vertical building project with a diverse array of sophisticated building components that are impossible to comply with Buy America provisions. -Project is well into construction and urgently requires certainty of funding. -The project's overwhelming support from, and benefit to, the community. -The project's fulfillment of many federal policy goals including climate resiliency, EV charging, Transportation Oriented Development, and Justice 40 investment.

Juan Morales 09/14/2023
With full faith, I support this request for waiver of Buy America. The city of Mount Vernon has begun to clear the path and raise the bar around this region with this Library Commons Construction Project. This project has directly created jobs and is contributing to economic stimulation in this region. The project is innovative because it will bring the Mount Vernon community a new library, much needed additional parking spaces in it's downtown, and forward thinking in having a handful of EV parking stations near the interstate corridor that connects two populated metropolises in the Pacific Northwest (Vancouver, BC and Seattle, WA). This request is worthy not only of your consideration, but also worthy of approval.

Allison Huffman 09/15/2023
Today I watched thousands of dollars of American Made steel get installed at the Mount Vernon Library Commons. Two things are clear 1) the owners of this project believe in American Work and manufacturing. 2) This waiver is about the less than 1% of total costs for things that can't currently be found in America. I lend my support to these rural American's who are just trying to create jobs for working people. The problems in the supply chain are not their fault.

kalohi Clark 09/15/2023
Please support this waiver request. 99% of the materials comply with the Buy America requirement and the City made an honest faith effort to fill that last 1%, to no avail. The Library Commons project creates needed EV transportation infrastructure for the I-5 corridor, provides jobs in an underserved rural community, and meets DOE's Justice 40 Initiative goals. This scenario is a perfect example of why waivers exist!

Suzanne Butler 09/15/2023
While I believe strongly in Buy America and Buy Local, we must not allow unavailability of essential pieces for our ecnomically and socially crucial construction project be stopped by such policy. Every sector of our community will be aided by the use of this building and every part of it is needed to fulfill that commitment. Please support the waiver.

Lyne Olson 09/15/2023
I fully support this waiver, only 1 per cent will not be American made goods because the items needed are not available in America!

Andrea Alaniz 09/15/2023
Please support this waiver request. This project will support and benefit our Mount Vernon Community in many ways. This request is a very small percentage of the project. Thank you

Christi Brua Weaver 09/15/2023
The city of Mount Vernon has made every effort to comply with Buy American, which is proven by the fact that 99% of this massive library project uses materials made in America. That final 1% isn't built by any manufacturer in the US. Impossible situations like this are exactly why waivers exist. Please approve this waiver request.

JD 09/15/2023
Please support this waiver request. 99% of the materials have been made in the US and just this last 1% is needed, as the products are not made by any US manufacturer. It’s a perfect example of why the waiver exists and the importance of providing this option.

Sherry Hong 09/15/2023
This project is so crucial for our rural community in terms of bringing much needed clean energy infrastructure and jobs growth to an underserved population. I know the project will bring massive economic and educational benefits for generations to come. Our project managers have done a fine job of researching, documenting, and justifying specific sourcing constraints—please do allow this project to move forward by granting the requested waiver, which covers only 1% of overall project value. Thank you!

kathryn forbes 09/15/2023
Please grant the waiver request for the Library Commons in Mount Vernon Wa. The library and meeting rooms are long overdue. It will serve a diverse and large area and needs to move forward. Thank you for your attention.

Douglas Weaver 09/15/2023
I believe support for this waiver is necessary for the long-term good of our community, and the successful completion of this very important project. The city of Mount Vernon has made every effort to find products required for this project that would comply with Buy American, but unfortunately it does not appear to be possible. Please approve this waiver and help us improve our community.

Barbara Dickinson 09/16/2023
Please support this waiver as it is important to help make this community project move forward. Domestic manufacturers or fabricators were unable to be located by the City of Mount Vernon and the City's contractors. This request is a small percentage of the entire project. Thank you.

Ismael Vivanco 09/16/2023
I wholeheartedly support the waiver request for several compelling reasons. First, it's important to note that the request pertains to an incredibly small fraction, less than 1%, of materials. This signifies that the overwhelming majority of materials are being handled appropriately, and granting this waiver won't compromise overall integrity. Furthermore, prioritizing infrastructure development in rural areas is an absolute necessity. These regions have long been underserved and face pressing needs for improved education , transportation, and more. By granting this waiver, resources to be allocated, efficiently and effectively, channeling them where they are most urgently required. Equally vital is the focus on Justice 40 communities. These areas have historically faced disproportionate environmental and economic challenges. By supporting this waiver, we can ensure that these communities receive the essential infrastructure upgrades and support they need to redress longstanding inequalities, fostering greater equity and social progress.

Joan Gordon 09/17/2023
Please grant this waiver request. Your decision will impact funding and building our new library. The multi-use library building will be a vital infrastructure upgrade for this Justice 40 community.

Ellie Cross 09/18/2023
I sincerely hope you can support this waiver request. We desperately need this infrastructure in rural areas and especially in Justice 40 communities. It is worth noting that less than 1% of materials are being asked for this waiver. Thank you for your consideration!

Andrew Bishop 09/18/2023
Please support this waiver request. This type of infrastructure is crucial in Mount Vernon. If we want to continue to grow our great community, then it has to be done through projects like this.

Melissa Van Straten 09/18/2023
Please support this waiver request. This infrastructure is critical for the Mount Vernon community. Thank you!

Silvia Alvarez 09/19/2023
Please support this waiver request. Not only is it essential but reasonable. With the approval of this waiver, which accounts for less than 1% of the total project materials, we can provide the necessary infrastructure to support underserved, rural communities. I have no doubt that this project will have a resounding positive impact on the City of Mount Vernon and I thank you for your careful attention on this matter.

Charles Caudill 10/01/2023
I support buy American made products no matter what wait find the right manufacturers.

Brian Herzig 10/11/2023
Using multiple searches on multiple systems we still miss some of these requests. I represent Precision Powered Products and while we do not make all of these items we make many of them and would like to provide you as much American made BABA compliant product as possible. Please allow us to provide American products without requiring a waiver.

Scott Edlund 11/09/2023
I do not support a waiver as I do not support the use of FHWA funding for the project.

CHRIS T PHILLIPS 12/05/2023
As of 5 Dec 2023, the City has not heard back from Precision Powered Products (PPP). Below is a timeline on our efforts with PPP, Please let me know if you have any questions or need any further information. 1. After seeing the comment from PPP after the comment period due date, the City's Project Manager set up a meeting to discuss what products PPP might be able to provide. That meeting was held on 10/17/23, and at the time PPP believed they might be able to provide the elevator sump pumps and the hydronic pumps that are listed in the waiver. PPP estimated at the time that it would take between 16-24 weeks to manufacture the pumps depending on the specifications and having to procure 100% domestic components. The City's PM sent PPP the project's specifications and drawings related to those products later that day for their review. 2. On 10/18, the City's PM then communicated the timeline for when each of those products would be needed on site based on the current schedule. The sump pumps would need to be on site by 11/30/23 to allow for installation & startup prior to the elevator installation, and the two hydronic pumps were required to be on site by 1/31/24 to allow for installation and commissioning. 3. On 11/8/23, PPP reached out stating they were working on their proposal and would be sending a quote ASAP. 4. On 11/14/23, the City's PM enquired if PPP would be able to meet the previously provided schedule requirements for the project. PPP responded they would only be looking to provide the two hydronic pumps. 5. On 11/16/23 the City's PM again inquired if PPP would be able to provide the pumps within our scheduled timeframe, and that the City needed a response by 11/21/23. PPP responded on 11/17/23 that they were doing their best to provide a quote early the next week. 6. As of 9:00am on 11/22/23, we have not received any further communication from PPP since 11/17/23. At this point we have concluded that PPP is unable to provide the two hydronic pumps listed in the waiver within the timeframe required for the project. 7. We have notified our design team and subcontractors that PPP might be a manufacturer to reach out to for future projects to secure domestically manufactured products. Chris Phillips Public Works Director

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Updated: 09/13/2023
Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000