Sewer project change order nixed

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By Mike Gibson

After fielding one request for a project change order — somewhat begrudgingly — Kingston city council members told another group seeking a change order to think again.
Change orders — amendments to the cost of a project, after the project is underway — can be for cost over-runs or under-runs. Both of the requests council presented at their Oct. 1 work session were for overages, however.
One of those requests — from Ladd Landing greenway project engineer Danl Hall — fell well within the amount budgeted for such contingencies at $94,000, or four percent of the total project cost. And most of that additional cost was dictated by changes dictated by state and local officials after final inspections.
But when project engineer Steve Holtermann came before the board to report that the city’s $5 million sewer expansion was probably running $44,000 over budget, council took a stand.
“Every project we get into, there’s always change orders that pop up at the end,” said Councilman Don White. “I just hate change orders. They [contractor Jacobs Engineering] should understand they bid $5 million, and $5 million is what they’re going to get.”
Holtermann reported that the expansion is over 90 percent complete; part of what remains is some fine grating, administrative work, and generating a punch list for final inspection.
The other remaining issue is an unexpected contingency. During a blasting operation, a subcontractor erred and took out a 130-foot section of an oxidation ditch. That mistake pushed the project’s estimated completion date — it was supposed to be on its final stage now — until sometime in December.
And while repairing the ditch won’t add anything to the city’s cost because insurance is handling the matter, it raised the specter of something called “liquidated damages.” What that means, in essence, is that if the contractor errs and it delays the project, the city can charge a fee for every day it is delayed.
Holtermann gave a number of figures related to the project overage, but it wasn’t clear how he was arriving at the estimated $44,000 overage. What was clear was that he wasn’t figuring the liquidated damages penalty into the final tally.
“The numbers were confusing to all of us,” Kingston Mayor Troy Beets said. “We asked them to come back with something we can understand.”
The bottom line, he said, is that, “It’s a $5 million project. And that’s what we’re going to pay.”