|Mayor Joe Piccolo signs proclamation.|
A long awaited project to supply proper water pressure to homes in the Hill Subdivision finally broke ground last week and everyone is happy and relieved.
"Someone called me and told me PRWID (Price River Water Improvement District) crews were digging out there and I lit up like a Christmas tree," said Richard Lee the developer of the subdivision who has been negotiating with the water district for two years to get the project done.
For all involved it looked like the project would take off a number of times over the past 24 months, but for various reasons it didn't. Difficulties on the project have ranged from specifications for the pumps that would be installed to who would pay for what on the project.
At the Sept. 7 meeting of PRWID's board, District Manager Phil Palmer said that it appeared to him the cost of the project had nearly doubled since initial costs were estimated in 2002.
"The price on the fire flow pumps has gone from $525 to over $1,900," he said. "For this pump house the cost for everything has gone up dramatically."
Palmer said many of the bids on various aspects of the project were well over what anyone had expected.
With original costs in the $34,000 to $40,000 range, Lee was stunned by the announcement because he would have to pay half of whatever the cost for the pump house would be. He also said that half of his cost would be born by the residents who own property there.
"That's a shocker," Lee told the board and Palmer at the time. "As many conversations as we have had on this, I had no idea you were talking about $70,000 for this project."
During the meeting the discussion progressed about how the costs could have gotten so far out of what everyone believed they could be.
"A $30,000 gap is a lot of money," said board member Tom Matthews. "Maybe we should have Creamer and Noble (PRWID's engineers on the project) look at these and see if the prices are too high."
As that item on the agenda was ended, it was clear to almost everyone that discussion on the matter needed to continue and while it was requested that Lee and Palmer continue to meet on the situation, Palmer said that he felt that it would be better for the entire board to meet with Lee. So the board called an emergency meeting on Sept. 14 and almost all the landowners in the development, along with Lee and others, attended the session to see what could be done to get the project on track. Both PRWID and Lee also had their attorneys there to represent them.
At the meeting Palmer explained why costs had gone up and told those assembled that he had also met with the engineers to review their older estimates to determine if there had been errors. They said their estimate was based on the best available information they had at the time.
"The also said that being old that estimate did not take in the increases in pipe costs, steel prices and fuel costs," said Palmer.
Mathews said that he thought that Lee's engineers (Balaz Engineering) estimates should also be reviewed. Neil Brienholt, one of the landowners in the development, brought out a document that he stated showed the original estimate by them to be at $44,000. He also said that it appeared to him that the district had delayed the construction on the pump station.
"I hope that it isn't your allegation that the board has held up this project," said board chair Keith Cox.
While that situation progressed, there was also talk about the original agreement between Lee and PRWID on who would pay what. According to information at the meeting the agreement said that Lee would pay for the first $36,000 and then anything over that would be split between the district and Lee. There was some dispute at the meeting about what actually happened, particularly when Lee said he had tried to give the district money before the agreement date to get the pumps and materials ordered. However the district refused to take his money at that time.
"It would have been insane for the district to accept any type of payment without an executed contract," Palmer responded to Lee's statement.
"The point is that we have a executed agreement and need to go with it," Cox interjected. "The quotes and costs don't bother me now. Let's get this going."
Members of the audience were concerned through the meeting about getting the project done and asked a number of questions about when they could expect completion of the project. One person said that he was sure when when he spoke that it was for the whole group that they wished the costs were lower, but that they just wanted to get the pump house built.
At that point things moved forward with a bid time being set (30 days) and approval for the district to begin preliminary work on the pump house. A review of bids was set at the time for the Oct. 5 board meeting.
At the Sept. 21 meeting some of the costs had already come in and a letter from Bruno Engineering, who had been asked to review the electrical requirements, had come in and was read. Questions about the types of pumps and three phase power were discussed.
Also under consideration was what to do about concrete work, because the lowest bid received was for $15,000, but the contractor said he couldn't get to the work for over three weeks. Another contractor said that he could start soon but the cost would be $28,000. Jeff Richens, assistant district manager told the board that PRIWID personnel could actually do some of the concrete work to get a head start until the low bid contractor could take over, and the board seemed to like that idea.
"We just want to be sure that any work we do is deducted from the bid," stated Cox.
At that meeting a few of the same landowners and Lee were in attendance and they seemed quite satisfied with the progress being made.
"We just need to get going on this and move ahead," said Lee.
The board agreed to continue with the work being done and to follow whatever the best scenario is for getting the station completed by the winter season.