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Construction delay costs spark council discussion

February 15, 2012
By Deb Gau , Marshall Independent

MARSHALL - Increased costs for a Marshall sewer project affected by negotiation delays and the Minnesota state shutdown last summer caused some frustration and disagreement for the Marshall City Council on Tuesday.

A $67,000 cost increase for a project including sanitary sewer and lift station improvements for the Marshall industrial park was brought before the council at its regular meeting.

The change was the result of different delays in completing construction on the project, said Marshall City Engineer Glenn Olson. One portion was caused by delays in acquiring easements for the construction of the lift station in the project. Olson said the city had awarded a construction contract before acquiring all the needed easements for the lift station, with the understanding that the easements would be obtained soon. However, negotiations over the easements delayed construction, and the contractor is claiming more than $52,000 in additional costs. Olson said the city is acknowledging about $23,000 of the costs, and the rest will be negotiated with the contractor.

The state shutdown also created delay costs, Olson said. The city had obtained a permit from the Minnesota Department of Transportation to work within U.S. 59, but MnDOT told contractors to stop work during the shutdown. Olson said the contractor is claiming more than $46,000, and the city has no dispute with about $43,000 of that amount.

Olson said he had not received a written response from MnDOT regarding the cost of the delays, and he said it's possible that a liability disclaimer in MnDOT permits will absolve them from responsibility.

"It's a situation that is very unfortunate at best," Olson said.

Council member Dan Ritter said he was "very troubled" by the way construction of the lift station was handled. The city had begun work on the lift station before all the proper easements had been obtained.

"That's a bad deal," he said.

Despite the difficulties, the city is obligated to pay the contractors, said Marshall Mayor Bob Byrnes.

Council members voted 4-1 in favor of approving the change order, contingent on bond funding. Ritter cast the lone vote against the motion.

Council member Jennie Hulsizer brought forward concerns about the Marshall Lyon County Library building's utility bills for the city council's information later in the meeting. The Library Board has been discussing the bills.

Since moving into the new library building, Hulsizer said, "the electric bill is substantially higher." The January electric bill in 2011 was about $977, compared to more than $4,500 in January 2012.

The new building had been promoted as being more energy-efficient, Hulsizer said.

Olson said the library building and its heating system could be checked for defects like cracks or improper seals, but he didn't have many more suggestions.

City Administrator Ben Martig said there were other factors that needed to be examined, including whether the cost increase was affected by parking lot lighting. The old library building was served by city streetlights, without having to power additional lights in a parking lot, he said.



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