LOUISBURG — City Council members wasted few words in describing their disapproval for a proposed $449,069 change order to move the location of north pump station for the new wastewater treatment plant being built south of town.
The relocation of the north pump became necessary because a test pit dug at the planned location determined there was construction debris and rubble that presented challenges for construction, in addition to health and safety concerns.
The test pit contained rebar, cans, bottles, tires and other items that the subcontractor laying the pipe will have to remove and sort for proper disposal, said Laura Gray, wastewater collection systems group leader for Lamp Rynearson in Kansas City, Mo. Lamp Rynearson is the project engineer.
Gray said the adjustment does not call for cleaning up the entire site but just where the pipe will be laid. Moving the pump station will require additional pipe and for it to be laid deeper in the ground. Even so, the pipe subcontractor’s estimate for completing this task is higher than anticipated, Gray said.
Council member Kalee Smith asked Gray how was it possible that no one realized there was a former dump under the proposed build site. She and a couple of other council members expressed a perceived lack of due diligence in investigating the site.
Gray said the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) noted the area was a previously unregulated city dump site that was present prior to the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency. But what KDHE didn’t realize was the extent of the dump site, Gray said. The state agency originally thought the dump site ended well short of the current construction area, she said.
Gray said 13 bore samples were taken — the contract agreement only required six — just to ensure the site was suitable for construction. She said those bore samples did not indicate the magnitude of the dump site beneath the surface until KDHE began its investigation.
A letter from Lamp Rynearson indicated the requested change order of $449,069 and 120 days pushes the new contract amount to $11,008,069 and the new substantial completion date to Feb. 4, 2021. The city’s portion of the project, about $8.3 million, has already been surpassed and the current costs are now within the state’s loan forgiveness portion of the project, up to about $12.6 million.
In June 2019, City Council members voted 4-0 to approve two bids, one of $10,459,000 from Crossland Heavy Contractors Inc. to construct the wastewater treatment facility at the site of the current south lagoons, and the other for $780,691 from M Con LLC to construct the collection improvement. Both companies were the low bidders.
When combined, the bids for the two sections of the project came in $1.4 million less than expected.
Gray told council members in September 2018 the plant had been approved by the state, and the city had qualified for low interest loan funding with principal forgiveness.
“It is estimated this will give you $4.275 million in principal forgiveness,” Gray said at the time.
At the council’s Sept. 9 meeting, Gray urged the council to move forward with the change order, citing the fear of the contractor mobilizing to another location which would cost the city more money in the long run.
The council did not approve the change order.
Council member Thor McKiearnan said the requested change order is much too high and asked for a better breakdown of costs to show what the city would be getting for that nearly half of a million dollars.
Gray said she has and will continue to be an advocate for the city and will ask for the better breakdown as well as a reduction in the amount of the change order. She plans to report back to the council at its Sept. 21 meeting.
In a follow-up interview, City Administrator Nathan Law discussed possible ramifications if the contractor does not agree to come down in price.
“The contractor has provided a price they feel is appropriate to accommodate the change in the project,” Law said in an email. “The bigger issue would be if the contractor holds firm and the council does so as well, then we are at an impasse, and that could result in a project delay.”
The plant originally was to be finished this summer and was pushed back to the beginning of October. The proposed change order would push the completion date into the first quarter of 2021. The new plant is estimated to be about 85 percent complete now.
Law didn’t think the city would face fines from KDHE for additional delays in the project. He said compliance issues with the existing lagoons are a bigger concern.
“There are issues with compliance on the current treatment system (lagoons), and we have not had to invest to address those concerns because we are proceeding with the new wastewater treatment facility,” Law said. “Delays in the construction process may result in the state requiring additional treatment methods to the existing system, which would have a cost component.”