Mayor Anthony J. Dolce brought some guests to Monday's meeting of Common Council's Finance Committee, officials from the engineering firm of Nussbaumer & Clarke.
"This dates back a couple months. There's a question on the cleaning and relining project that went to the city line. I believe this particular change order is for going down to Bart's Cove and the Con Club," Dolce explained. "Basically, (DPW Director Tony Gugino) and I asked Nussbaumer to come to give you more detail to it before we submitted the bill to council."
"These are what's typically referred to as reasonably unforeseen, unanticipated field changes. Once you start the dig and expose the underground pipes and whatever, things are different from what you anticipated, especially at Brigham and Route 5," Nussbaumer's Gary Muffoletto explained, adding all the principals put their heads together to find a way to address the problems and correct them as quickly as possible. "It took everybody's coordinated effort to get that done in a timely manner and get that road back together and in service."
OBSERVER Photo by Gib Snyder
Mayor Anthony J. Dolce (standing) explains additional work that was done during the city’s west end water line project as Councilman Michael Michalski, chair of council’s Finance Committee, takes notes.
Nussbaumer's additional engineering services came to $9,200, which included general services during construction and construction observation, something the firm took over after Dave Manzella retired as senior engineering technician from the DPW. The city and Nussbaumer, along with the contractor that did the work, will settle on the final bill for construction after the holidays, the committee was told.
Councilwoman Stacy Szukala asked if the work should have been approved before it was done.
"The way the contract was prepared and bid, it had base bid items and then actual work bid items. So there was always quantities and dollars in the construction contract to allow us to address reasonably unforeseen and unanticipated field conditions as they occurred in the field under the contract amount and not have to go back to council, again, to try and keep things moving. As we all know on a construction project, the key is to keep it moving," Muffoletto explained.
The 2-inch service line and connections, which cost $34,800, was a request from the city, not an unforeseen need. The final walk-through inspection of the project, which had its start delayed due to cold April weather, was done in September.
After further questions, Muffoletto said experience has shown the need to be ready for unexpected findings and expenses.
"We anticipated that there would be reasonably unforeseen and unanticipated conditions that would arise in the field that we needed somehow to address in the bid documents so that we didn't have to go back to the council every time we found something that was different from what was shown on the plans," he explained. "So what we did was we put in extra work items."
Muffoletto went on to say there was construction money left over and the city felt there was a legitimate need to replace the 2-inch service.
"In the end the city agreed to reimburse the contractor in this amount for that work. That's it, there are no other extras," he explained of the $34,800 construction bill.
Councilwoman-at-Large Stephanie Kiyak was concerned about whether due diligence was done, but Muffoletto said he thought it was legitimate.
"We're asking you to reimburse in connection with the Brigham Road and 2-inch line extras, the additional length of the project, changes made. It's for additional services we provided over the entire length of the construction," Muffoletto said.
Nussbaumer helped secure the grant that was due to expire and the city has now submitted its request for reimbursement from Empire State Development Corporation. The total cost of the project was $620,000, leaving the city with $370,000 to come up with in long-term financing that would be paid for through the water fund.
After Nussbaumer officials left, Fiscal Affairs Officer Richard Halas said that overall, there are problems with late paperwork, and called for monthly meetings on large projects.
"I guess my concerns and frustrations don't lie with them at all," Szukala said of Nussbaumer & Clarke. " ... We should have all been part of the discussion from the beginning so we all understood. ... We sit here month after month and we just get the numbers afterwards and we're asked to just pay things. It's frustrating when you can't get those questions out in the open."
Dolce was asked who requested the extra work be done.
"That would have been Tony (Gugino), possibly with Jim Fafinski," the mayor replied. "I can say from what I recall, the records for those lines needed some updating to say the least, but the project makes sense. You're in there, you're digging to get it done and not have to replace the lines every two years," Dolce replied.
He agreed that prior notice should be given to council for its input.
Kiyak said the bid being $200 under the state's $35,000 limit, something Gugino should have known, "smells funny."
"If it was the state looking at this, I think they'd smell it as funny too," she added, echoing concerns expressed earlier by City Attorney Ron Szot.
Szot also said the $34,800 that was spent on installing the 2-inch lines was not bid and not part of the original project.
Councilman Michael Michalski chairs the Finance Committee and said after the meeting the city requested the work and it was authorized at additional expense.
"However, it was not brought before the council, for either an update or any type of approval at the time. It's probably something that should have come before us, at least in an update, while it was happening," he added. "Unfortunately, it did not. The work is done, it's not really the engineer's fault, it was requested of them.
"We may have to tighten up some policies as far as where we are on these capital improvement projects going forward. Where are we as a percentage of completion and where do we stand with these projects. A little more updating may be needed going forward between the fiscal affairs office, the mayor's office and the department of public works."
The committee will meet again in January.
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