Freeport officials unhappy with lack of progress on sewer project
Freeport officials likely won’t have much sympathy if the contractor on a borough sewer project asks for more time to complete work.
That’s because no work has been done on the first phase of the project even though it was supposed to have started in October.
“They moved in their equipment and materials but have not done any work,” Councilman Sean McCalmont said.
Brian Churilla of KLH Engineers, the engineer for the $12 million project, told council Monday it’s likely that project contractor Jet Jack will seek an extension.
Jet Jack is facing an April 7 deadline to finish the first phase.
In the first phase, the Oakdale-based Jet Jack is supposed to move two sewer lines with combined storm and sanitary flow that now goes into the Allegheny River. The lines will be relocated so they discharge into the treatment plant, where it can be treated before being released into the river.
Churilla said Jet Jack officials have cited high water levels along the Allegheny River as the reason why work has been delayed.
He said he checked data on river levels from October through March and found they have been about a foot higher than average. The average water level for that time period over the past three years has been 12.2 feet, according to Churilla.
Mayor Jim Swartz, who was not in favor of doing the project, wasn’t buying any of that.
“For the last month where have they been?” an angry Swartz asked Churilla. “The water levels have been low; they should have been out there working.”
Attempts to contact Jet Jack officials were unsuccessful.
Churilla said the borough cannot force the company to start working until it misses the first-phase deadline.
“Week after week, they are telling me they are coming out and then they don’t,“ Churilla said.
“Then we don’t have to give them an extension,” Swartz said. “The next four days it’s supposed to be 60 to 70 degrees. They should be out here working. I don’t want to hear it.”
If it comes to a council vote, Swartz cannot participate unless someone is absent and there is a tie. Under the borough code, he then would be able to vote to break the tie.
But he was not the only borough official displeased with the situation.
“I know the water levels have been a little high, but I agree with the mayor,” Councilman Dino Digiacobbe said.
What apparently has irritated Freeport officials almost as much as the lack of construction is that Jet Jack has not communicated with them on the reasons for it.
“If you guys (KLH) hadn’t reached out, then we’d have no information,” Councilman Justin DeAngelis said.
McCalmont said he’s seen similar situations before and, if the matter winds up in court, a judge would likely grant an extension using the concept of “float time.”
According to the industry website Construction Claims Monthly, “the ‘float’ is the period during which the schedule entitles the contractor to an excusable delay even though the original contract delivery or completion schedule allows more time than is actually necessary to perform the work.”
McCalmont said he thinks it would be likely that a judge would deduct time from the “float” period for the delay and give the contractor the remaining time to complete the project. For example, he said if the float time in the schedule is 90 days, a judge could deduct perhaps 15 or 20 days for the high water delays, giving Jet Jack 65 to 70 days to complete the work.
Granting some added time is something McCalmont said he would favor. But he still wants to hear from Jet Jack.
“We’d like to have them come and explain to us why we’re nowhere,” he told Churilla.
Churilla said he would ask company officials to attend council’s meeting Monday.
“I think council deserves an explanation,” Churilla said.