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Change orders irk Monessen mayor

| Thursday, June 12, 2014, 1:16 a.m.

Unforeseen additions to the Monessen City Park amphitheater project left the mayor fuming Wednesday at a council meeting.

Mayor Lou Mavrakis took exception to receiving requests for additional work – change orders – just hours before the meeting.

Mavrakis has long-lamented the $500,000 project spearheaded by previous Mayor Mary Jo Smith, because it required $250,000 in Community Development Block Grants.

The mayor said the money would be better be used for street improvements and other projects. The other $250,000 came in the form of a grant.

A change order called for $11,055 to move an outdoor electrical box and install it in a recently constructed dressing room for safety purposes. The other called for $4,345 to install a trench drain near the new building because water and mud have been accumulating during rainstorms.

CDBG money allotted for the project is available, based on a contract with Maccabee Industrial Inc. According to a contract with the state, the CDBG money must be used for work in City Park because it was allocated for only that project.

Mavrakis lambasted city Engineer Walt Haglund and his son, Jon Haglund, during the meeting for not notifying elected officials in a timely manner.

He criticized Councilwoman Lucille D'Alfonso for approving the project under the previous administration.

Mavrakis said the city does not have money to repair lower Ninth Street, which has been closed for nearly a year.

The Haglunds said they received the change order from Maccabee on Tuesday afternoon and that the company did not receive a price from the electrician until then, which led to the delay in notifying council.

“We're not trying to drop anything on you. We're trying to make this project move forward,” Jon Haglund told Mavrakis. “To assume we're trying to pull something over anyone's eyes is an insult.”

“I don't like the idea of you people dropping things on us at the last minute. That's happened twice now,” Mavrakis said of a change order proposed shortly before last month's meeting.

When department of parks Chairwoman Patty Bukowski attempted to interject, Mavrakis snapped.

“I don't want to hear you. Just keep your mouth shut,” Mavrakis told her.

D'Alfonso told the mayor he was out of order. He disagreed, saying he was talking to the Haglunds.

“This increases Maccabee's contract price from $425,975 to $441,375. … What's going to come next week or next month?” Mavrakis asked. “Are we going to spend the (rest of the money)?”

“You have to spend it or you send it back,” Walt Haglund responded, adding street department supervisor Leonard Billy requested any money remaining from the project be used for paving near the amphitheater. “So yes, mayor, there will be a change order No. 4.”

Billy said leftover money from the project must be used strictly for City Park.

“Why can't we just finish this project and move on? We have people ready to rent this facility,” D'Alfonso said.

“I would agree if this money was coming out of the general budget. … we're just OK'ing the use of money that has already been earmarked for this project. Whether you like the project or not, it's done and the money is there. So why would we delay this?”

Mavrakis said he did not like being “blindsided” two meetings in a row.

“I'm telling you two guys, don't blindside us anymore,” Mavrakis told the Haglunds.

Councilman Josh Retos had told the mayor the city was “pigeon-holed” into approving the payments, and council had no choice but to approve the payments.

Retos said council should have had an opportunity to discuss the change orders earlier. Retos said Billy and the Haglands knew the work under the change orders was necessary in advance of Monday's work session, even if the exact price had yet to be set.

After rejecting Mavrakis' motion to table the proposals, council approved the payments, 4-1, with Mavrakis casting the lone no vote. Retos, who cast the lone vote last year against the initial project, voted for both payments “very reluctantly.”

After the meeting, Billy said boat docks at the Herman Mihalich Boat Launch have been installed and became operable Tuesday. Billy said inclement weather had caused mud and other unsafe conditions, which delayed the installation.

Billy informed residents that the city garage on Parente Boulevard will not accept newspaper, cardboard and magazines for recycling until a dispute between the city's refuse authority and its hauler is resolved.

Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 724-684-2635.

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