$101,000 change order rankles city council
Editor | November 15, 2023 2:00 AM
The Columbia Falls City Council approved a series of change orders to contracts last week, but they weren’t too happy about it.
Of main concern was a change order to the Hilltop sewer main replacement project. Initially the city’s engineering firm, HDR Engineering, estimated it would take about a 6-foot wide ditch to replace main.
But the ditch actually had to be much wider — 18 feet — as the narrower ditch kept collapsing in. As a result, the amount of asphalt that needed to be replaced on the street was 18 feet wide, or about 572 tons.
The project initially called for 250 tons of asphalt.
The end result was a difference in cost of $101,815, payable to NCC Neumann, the contractor.
City manager Susan Nicosia told council the work had to be done, but it would have been better if they had known about the change ahead of time from HDR, which was in charge of the project.
City Councilwoman Kelly King asked if the city had any legal recourse against HDR for the significant change, and cost, of the project.
“There’s a definite glitch in the system when it costs the city $101,000 (additional),” King surmised.
But city attorney Justin Breck said the work had to be done.
“It’s not like we paid for something we didn’t have done,” he said. “What are the damages?”
The city will use local street construction funds, which come from state gas tax, to pay the additional expense.
The council also approved another change order for four additional sewer service lines. Initially the project called for 20, but there were actually 24 installed at a cost of $2,855 apiece.
In another matter concerning HDR, the firm is 9 months behind schedule on final design of the city’s $5.6 million sewer plant upgrade.
As such, the city was in danger of losing federal funding for a good portion of the project if the deadline for completion wasn’t extended. The city had to OK an extension of the project until Dec. 31, 2025 for completion, because of the engineering delay.
The extension also required the approval of the state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, as it’s the agency charged with overseeing the federal grant.
The grant monies come from the federal American Rescue Plan Act, which was designed as pandemic relief for communities. Upgrading sewage treatment facilities across the U.S. was just part of the Act’s charge.