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NL storm sewer project brings costs overflows

Money in the drain

NORTH LIBERTY– It’s never good when a contractor’s bill is higher than original estimates.
It’s extra bad when the bill more than doubles.
That was the situation facing the North Liberty City Council at its May 27 meeting, when McClure Engineering project manager Kevin Bailey explained a change order to the city’s storm sewer improvements along Highway 965.
The City of North Liberty authorized McClure Engineering to oversee the design for replacing a culvert on the Advance Millwork property, in order to improve the flow of storm water runoff to the area. Preparing for that improvement, with its authorized cost of $89,551, required engineers to obtain site plans and maps showing the location of existing sewer and water facilities.
The property was old enough that a site plan could not be located, but the maps depicting existing utilities was found.
“The sanitary map shows there is a sanitary manhole a few hundred feet to east of the building. We found three pipes coming into that manhole and one leaving it. Right away we made the assumption that the line coming in from the northwest was from Advance Millwork building, and the one coming from the north was from the businesses to the north. We found cleanouts on both sides of building. So it made sense they would have taken the sanitary out of the building and directly east to this manhole. That’s how I prepared the plans,” for storm sewer drainage, Bailey explained.
But in the course of construction, contractor Carter & Associates unearthed a sanitary line about 4.5 feet below ground, in a much more shallow placement than is prudent. Therefore, the sanitary sewer had to be rerouted and a new line installed.
“To address this issue, we are running a new sanitary line north of the culvert to a manhole to the east, and then running it southeasterly to connect up to existing sanitary line that does flow out of Advance Millwork building. That’s the background of the change order,” said Bailey. “I know it is a sizeable change order.”
In fact, the change order is going to cost an additional $97,284; more than double the project’s original estimate.
“I think it goes without saying, I’m not real happy about having a change order more than the original bid, and this is the third time we’ve had a delay of some kind,” said North Liberty Mayor pro tempore Gerry Kuhl.
Council member Coleen Chipman agreed.
“If it had been planned in advance there would have been a lesser cost involved,” said Chipman. “Time is of extreme essence, and it’s also costing us time. Any time it costs the city more money, it is really something we get very concerned about.”
She asked City Administrator Ryan Heair how the city would budget for such an overrun.
“That’s part of the reason we do reimbursement resolutions and don’t borrow the entire amount initially,” said Heiar, “so when the project is nearing completion we have actual costs and can borrow that amount.”
Heair noted that there was a contingency added to the overall project budget for Highway 965 improvements. “This takes a huge bite out of it, obviously,” Heiar added.
Council member Chris Hoffman asked if McClure had errors and omissions insurance to help cover the cost of the change order, since the engineering firm failed to discover the problem before construction began.
“We are talking through that right now in terms of how they would contribute back to additional costs here,” said Heiar.
Hoffman said he wanted to make it public knowledge that the city is trying to get some assistance from McClure since the problem was found after storm sewer construction had already begun, creating additional expenses.
“Granted if this was going to happen, it would have been an extra cost for us anyway, but how much would it have been and what is the difference between that cost and what we are actually are going to be paying right now,” Hoffman posed.
“I agree,” Bailey said. “We are talking now, and we are going to cover that difference.”
Heiar said the city and project engineers were still negotiating a fair way to share the cost difference.
Council member Terry Donahue moved to accept the $97,000 change order and authorize the work to continue, with final costs to be based on negotiations between city and the affected parties.
Donahue’s motion was passed unanimously.