Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

November 20, 2012

Pitt concerned about excessive change orders

Steve Woodhouse
Journal-Express

Knoxville — The Knoxville City Council approved Change Order #12 to the 2009 West Area Relief Sewer project last night. Councilor Tim Pitt believes that is too many. 

"Twelve change orders is too many," Pitt said. Nearly every project the City has done, since he joined the council in January, has required a change order. He fears that the City may be receiving low bids from contractors, only to have them raise the price through the change order process. 

Councilor Dave Roozeboom suggested that, while the City pays thousands of dollars per project for engineering services, the City may be better served to not go through that process. Part of the engineering design process is to notice and record potential problems to include them in the bid price. 

City Manager Harold Stewart said that not every issue raised by contractors has come before the council. Staff has handled issues in which the contractor sought a change order, only to have staff inform them that one was not required and should be covered by the original contract. 

"We have to start looking at this stuff," Pitt said. "It's not going to just be a rubber stamp." 

The change order approved last night includes the replacement of eight additional traffic loops, wiring and conduit ($29,239), removal and replacement of water mains, necessary for locating the new sewer main ($6,600) and removal and replacement of concrete lids with four stormwater manhole structures ($4,400). This increased the contract cost by a total of $40,239. Total project cost stands at $5,070,197.95. The original contract was for $3,747,747, though much of the increase ($1,060,076.75) was through a change order approved to handle an emergency situation not included in the original scope of the project. 

The project is almost complete. Another change order is expected, in which the final actual costs will be considered.

For future projects, the council agreed to allow staff to begin negotiations with Snyder and Associates to establish a contract for ongoing engineering services. This is because the City is without an engineer on staff, since former Public Works Director Jeff May accepted a new job. 

"Dylan (Feik) and I neither one are engineers," Stewart told the council. Stewart and Feik met with nine engineering firms to be considered for this contract, including Veenstra and Kimm, which has designed many City of Knoxville projects. Veenstra and Kimm will likely be utilized in the future for the actual design phase.

The role of Snyder and Associates, if a contract is approved, would be to advise the City on projects. Their expertise will be utilized to determine what should be done and what steps should be taken to begin a project. 

Other council notes: 

• Accepted the receipt of the union's initial bargaining proposal. The union is seeking a 3.5 percent hourly wage increase on July 1, 2013, a 3.75 percent increase on July 1, 2014, and a 4 percent increase on July 1, 2015, a monthly utility allowance of $65 and verbiage changes to the contract. Negotiations will begin soon. 

• Appointed Leroy Winfield to the Cemetery Advisory Commission. Winfield was selected over longtime commissioner Ray Bertrand. 

• Set a public hearing for Dec. 3 at 6:15 p.m. regarding an urban renewal plan amendment. A special meeting was also set for Tuesday, Nov. 27, at 5:30 p.m. to discuss current urban renewal areas.

• Approved a contract with eCivis. This company, which Stewart learned about at a convention in Arizona, is a resource for finding and writing grants. The annual subscription to this service is $9,800. Stewart indicated that Councilors Elsie Kemp and Carolyn Formanek have seen a demonstration of their work and were impressed. Kemp confirmed this, but Formanek was absent.