Springdale councilmen irked by latest water project cost overrun
The cost of Springdale’s water system renovation has increased again, adding another $132,000 to a project already plagued by unforeseen expenditures.
It is payment for additional paving to Kukurin Contracting Inc., the general contractor for installing the new water lines that are part of the project. The project, estimated at $7.4 million, also includes a total revamping of the borough’s 1920s-era water treatment plant.
The latest change order is directly related to a separate $44,000 change order council discussed in April. Both stem from a mismarked natural gas line owned by Peoples Natural Gas Co., according to project engineer Kevin Szakelyhidi of Bankson Engineers Inc.
When the matter first emerged in April, the $44,000 payment had to be made to Kukurin for time and labor expended in locating the Peoples Gas line along Butler-Logan Road, a state road where one of the water lines was being installed.
That occurred after the gas company and Springdale Township, into which both the gas and water lines extend, marked the location of the gas line as they were required to do. However, when excavation started, the line was not in that location and Kukurin’s crews had to dig by hand to locate it, Szakelyhidi said.
He said the gas line was marked as being in the travel lane of Butler-Logan but actually was located along the berm, in the same location where Bankson had designed the water line to run. As a result, Szakelyhidi said the pavement inside the white lines, which PennDOT uses to mark the road’s edge, had to be excavated and the water line placed there instead.
According to Szakelyhidi, the water line was placed roughly two feet into the traffic lane from the berm.
Councilman Frank Forbes questioned Szakelyhidi about the added cost. Forbes and Councilman Mike Ziencik, have been critical of Szakelyhidi and Bankson because of the change orders, which now total more than $375,000, according to Forbes.
“You gave me the indication that this was something unforeseen,” Forbes said to Szakelyhidi. “Would you say this is something that should have been considered in engineering?”
“We did what we needed to do, but, unfortunately, the gas company did not mark the line properly,” Szakelyhidi said.
Forbes, referring to the total added costs, said, “That’s a remarkable amount of money. In my opinion, somewhere along the line, Bankson Engineering dropped the ball for the borough.”
“With all due respect, I have to disagree,” Szakelyhidi replied. “They came out and marked the lines, and we surveyed that into our drawings. We didn’t know it was wrong until we started excavating.”
He said the cost for the revision was elevated because of PennDOT policy, which prevented the borough from simply paving over just the resulting trench for the water line.
“Once you cross the white lines, PennDOT makes you go all the way to the yellow (center) lines,” Szakelyhidi said.
That meant paving an entire traffic lane for a distance of one-half mile, he said.
Asked if he had informed council in April that there would be a second subsequent change order because of the issue, Szakelyhidi replied: “Yes, I just never mentioned a cost because we were negotiating the cost with Kukurin.”
He said he was successful in getting the contractor to reduce the cost of the additional work by perhaps $20,000.
Szakelyhidi said if the true location of the gas line had been known when the design was being done, the water line still would have to be located in the travel lane and the added cost of paving added into the bid specifications, likely resulting in higher bids.
Council President Jim Zurisko said Councilman David Spirk, the water department chairman, and Szakelyhidi held a couple of meetings in the past several days with a few council members each time to inform them of the overrun.
Ziencik asked why he and Councilman Jason Overly, the water department co-chairman, were not included.
Spirk said that was because he knew both men would be working when the meetings took place and he could not have more than three of the seven council members at a time involved in those meetings because that would violate the state’s Sunshine Law.
“I didn’t want it construed that we were having a meeting of the council,” Spirk said.
Ziencik indicated it was because he has been scathing in his previous criticism of Bankson and the added costs.
“I have grave concerns about the competency of Bankson Engineering,” Ziencik said.
“You’re entitled to your opinion, but I do not,” Spirk said.
Eventually, council voted to pay the latest change order, but Mayor Joseph Bertoline’s vote was needed to do it. Zurisko, Spirk and Harry Helwig voted to approve the payment but Ziencik, Forbes and Overly voted against it. Councilwoman Irene Miller was absent. Solicitor Craig Alexander then called on Bertoline to cast the deciding vote, and he voted in favor of paying it.
Alexander said the borough would investigate the matter and may seek reimbursement from Peoples Gas for the latest expense.
He said the borough has raised the issue of reimbursement of the $44,000 change order last spring with Peoples Gas and Springdale Township. Alexander said both parties are investigating the matter and the issue remains unresolved.