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Commission considers unanticipated addition to wastewater treatment facility

POLSON – Commissioners will visit the wastewater treatment facility construction site before deciding whether to approve a request for a $119,000 drainage improvement that was not included in original designs for the project.

Kevin Johnson, project manager from DOWL, the engineering firm that designed the facility, spoke at the commission meeting. He said that the change is necessary because stormwater is standing at the site rather than draining away. Initially, engineers thought a channel could divert the water, but in the winter, the channel would back up with ice. 

DOWL proposed they add a drainage pipe to move water away from the plant. The project will consist of 1,300 feet of pipe, which will release stormwater downhill from the plant. The materials and installation would cost the city $119,000.

Based on the amount of water he’s seen standing at the site, Johnson said he has no choice but to make the addition to drain the area. 

The problem comes close to the anticipated end of the construction. The contract for construction was set to end Dec. 6. 

Mayor Paul Briney expressed frustration with the last-minute request for additional funds. He asked Johnson why the pipe wasn’t in the original plans.

“It should have been. I just thought [stormwater] was going to flow,” Johnson replied.

Johnson said the addition would cost 10 to 20 percent more than if it had been included in the initial plans for the project.

This isn’t the first time DOWL has requested additional funds for unforeseen additions to the project. To date, the city has spent $496,921 on costs not included in the original estimate from DOWL for engineering and construction. If the city approves this addition, $222,895 will remain of the $997,000 that the city initially budgeted for unexpected costs. 

“My problem is that picture hasn’t always been as pretty as you’ve painted it, and it’s cost the city, and it’s cost the taxpayer,” Commissioner Stephen Turner said to Johnson.

Newly appointed Interim City Manager Wade Nash said he visited the construction site and had declined to make a decision about whether to approve the additional costs. 

“I said ‘I’m not signing this, this has to go to the commission,’” Nash said.

Commissioners Turner, Jan Howlett and Bob Martin said they would visit the wastewater facility before deciding whether to approve the cost.

Though construction on the wastewater facility is nearing completion, the project is behind schedule. The construction company’s contract time expired on Dec. 6, but Johnson said it would likely take about a month more to complete construction. The construction contractor will incur financial penalties for failing to meet the deadline agreed upon. Some aspects of the facility, including paving, will not be completed until the spring. 


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