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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The $110 Solution

To say that Water District 14 is one of the worst managed municipal projects anywhere in the State would be an understatement as large as the cost overruns which continue to plague the project. From what appears to be bid rigging at its inception to contract managers in the Building Department who are either inept or corrupt, Water 14’s contract, managers and its so called “final settlement” agreement have tarnished three consecutive town boards.

What can you expect when Building staff managing the contract write memos arguing that a contract price is a “supposed price”? What can you say when they blindly approve payments to the contractor knowing they are exceeding the contract bid price, but think to say nothing to the town board because they think the price is “supposed”. And what are we to think that they never once thought to ask the town’s legal staff whether they should approve those payments they thought were “supposed” in order to get legal advice before they passed along all those payments over the bid price and bond value?

So when we learned that the settlement numbers the Building Staff provided to the town’s attorney were off by a hundred grand or so, no sweat right. The town got an extra hundred grand from the state so we could make it up by just giving it all to the contractor instead of using it to lower the debt. Then we learned that the prices the Building Staff submitted for work were different than the prices agreed to in the original contract. Different by a rather substantial amount and with no explanation to the town board or public. In fact no one had a clue the prices they submitted for settlement were outrageous.

We call it the $110 solution to the contractor’s thirst for money. In the original contract, the Application for Payment submitted to the town for payment shows two prices to install 8 inch water main pipe. It's the document above on the left. One price is $31.03 for installing the pipe along what might be termed normal roadside conditions, for example in front of your house. The other price in the original bid (same document) is $70. 00 for “direct drill” installation or boring as it is sometimes referred to.

But alas, imagine the shock gripping the town board as they learned they had approved a new price in the settlement numbers sent to them by the Building Staff at $110 a foot for all 8 inch water main installation. See the document on the right. That’s a 254% increase from the original price for conventional installation and a 57% increase in the price of drill installation or boring from the original agreed to bid price.

Problem is no one in the Building Department bothered to explain to the town board that these prices were, well, very different and very much more than the original contract called for. So we have to wonder how betrayed the Board members must feel now that they are finding out that they agreed to a settlement that screwed taxpayers royally and that every home in North Greenbush is being forced to pay it, not just the poor taxpayers in Water 14.

Boys, it time for a new union contract. Make sure you keep a member of the union in charge of the department so there is no outside management supervision. Then don’t forget to keep those lucrative insurance buyouts including people who were never in the insurance program to begin with. Let the contractual town engineer who comes up with contract excuses and numbers keep that 4 years or so worth of health insurance premiums he should never received in the first place, hell it’s only $20 grand!

And then be sure to keep the Utilities Inspector on the payroll for life, especially after the construction he has been “supervising” is done.

Oh, and when the contractor wants his check that incidentally withholds no retainage money, better tell the Comptroller to snap to it or he’ll send his personal town supervisor down to the office and order up a check for personal hand delivery.

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