Negaunee council approves engineering amendments

NEGAUNEE – The Negaunee City Council has approved more than $50,000 in amendments to the city’s engineering agreement for the Negaunee Wastewater Transmission Project.

Pending the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s approval of the amendments, the money will come from a USDA grant for the project.

Construction on the $7.364 million project to send wastewater from Negaunee to the Ishpeming Area Joint Wastewater Treatment Facility began in 2012, but work and preparations have been ongoing since 2009. The project reached substantial completion in July.

Michael Pond, Marquette-based AECOM’s principal engineer on the project, explained to council at its meeting Thursday that his firm’s on-site inspection of the wastewater line’s construction took more time than anticipated. He said AECOM’s contract with the city for 4 percent of the cost of construction was inadequate to pay for the firm’s services.

“I honestly think that the 4 percent originally anticipated for the project was insufficient,” Pond said, adding that he was currently doing a project in Newberry for which AECOM was getting 8 percent of the cost of construction.

Amendment 4 to the engineering agreement, a total increase of $44,588.70, takes into account on-site construction inspection and environmental testing. Amendment 5, for $6,914.23, reflects AECOM’s work on engineering designs to reroute part of the sewer line from its original intended location along the Negaunee Ice Arena slightly farther south.

He said AECOM also incurred more costs partly because Ishpeming contractor A. Lindberg & Sons had a single crew working on the project. “So if (Lindberg) takes more time to do it with a single crew versus duplicate crews, we incur more costs…” he said.

Councilman Michael Haines asked how there was a time issue, as the project was completed in its original timeline.

“Haven’t we completed this project within the time limit that AECOM itself specified at the beginning?” he asked. “Where did we exceed the time limit?”

“The timeframe that was set out was set out more for the contractor and not for the consultant,” Pond said, before conceding that AECOM could have better estimated the cost of its services.

“In my estimation, because of the complexity of this job and the amount of time and things that were changed, we incurred more time and so did the city,” he said. “And that’s why we are requesting more construction services time.”

City Manager Jeff Thornton said that he and City Attorney Bruce Houghton had been working with AECOM on the amendment amounts and the requested amendments were lower than they had been.

“This is a substantially lesser amount than was proposed to me several months ago, and I’m sure the attorney can agree,” he said. “So there has been some banter, some negotiation back and forth.”

Two of the costs that were removed from the amendments include cost of living increases for AECOM employees over the five years of the project as well as mileage expenses for its engineers to travel to Negaunee from the firm’s Marquette office.

“I took that out of this amendment, because I don’t want to argue about the small stuff, I want us to be made whole as we possibly can so we can move forward,” Pond said.

Thornton said even though the money for the amendments was coming from the USDA grant, that doesn’t mean the city shouldn’t be judicious in spending it.

“Even though we’re in the grant money and it’s not our money – yeah it is, we’re taxpayers,” he said, adding that he and Houghton reached what they felt was “an amicable solution” with AECOM.

Zach Jay can be reached at 906-486-4401.