County questions Wapsi Trail change order

Board of Supervisors
By: 
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

Back in April, the Jones County Supervisors approved a $21,000 amendment to the Wapsipinicon Trail Project. As the project engineer, Todd Happel with Anderson- Bogert, explained at the time, the contractor, Boomerang Corp., was roughly two months behind on the project. The amendment would cover engineer oversight from Happel. 

Now, Happel is asking for another change order. 

During the Sept. 10 Board of Supervisors meeting, Happel and County Engineer Derek Snead met with the board to discuss the issue. 

“The project is essentially complete,” said Snead. “But there is a change order to amend the total working days allotted as opposed to liquidated damages.” 

Happel explained in early August, he and Snead sat down with Boomerang to hash out the two-month delay in starting the project. They looked at each day’s weather and soil conditions to put together a detailed analysis as to whether Boomerang could have accomplished anything during that timeframe or not. 

After the DOT reviewed the analysis, Happel reported that Boomerang was only two days over their contract versus 19 days. 

“It’s justified,” said Happel. “We tried to hold Boomerang’s feet to the fire, and it worked. We got the job done.” 

Happel said Boomerang is accepting of paying two days worth of liquidated damages, which amounts to about $1,000 a day. 

“It happens a lot,” said Snead in dealing with project contractors. “There’s a 30- day grace period to sign the contracts and move on with the project.” 

Happel said following the pre-construction meeting with Boomerang in June 2018, they still did not have a signed contract. 

“They burned a lot of days in the beginning,” said Happel. 

The board of supervisors was not receptive of the change order. 

“It was their choice not to show up on time,” commented Supervisor Wayne Manternach. 

Supervisor Ned Rohwedder said he felt the $21,000 in extra engineer fees was warranted, at the time, because Boomerang’s liquidated damages was going to make up the difference. “Now there’s no penalty,” he said. 

It was noted by Brad Hatcher, a member of the trail committee, that the committee was not brought into the conversation concerning the change order. (The overage in funding will be paid by the committee, not the county.) 

County Auditor Janine Sulzner said grant funding could also be in jeopardy because the project took more time than anticipated. A Parks to People grant was expected to cover 15.3 percent of the total cost. 

Happel said they are holding $30,000 in retainage from Boomerang. 

The board decided to table the approval of the change order, wanting more information on the situation. 

“I don’t believe we should pay extra due to the late start date,” said Supervisor Jon Zirkelbach. 

Rohwedder said the board agreed to pay more in engineer’s costs, yet no engineering was needed when the contractor was not on scene. 

“The funds in jeopardy is really concerning to me, too,” added Rohwedder. 

Happel said the Parks to People grant could be added as additional liquidated damages against Boomerang if the board felt the funding would not happen. 

Snead backed Boomerang saying the contract amendment was simply for extra time spent on the project. 

The board also wanted to know how 17 out of 19 working days could be suspended. 

Snead said the contractor should not be penalized for only being two days behind. “They had a lot of other projects going on,” he said. “They have the ability to be late; they did a lot of work in a short amount of time. This project had a very tight window with stringent constraints.” 

“There are more questions than what can be addressed,” said Zirkelbach. 

In other county business: 

Supervisor Wayne Manternach, who serves on the regional mental health board, provided an update on the search for a new regional CEO. 

The regional board of directors received over 100 applications for the position. Those were narrowed down to about a dozen. The board interviewed five applicants, and then narrowed it down to two candidates to go before the directors on Tuesday, Sept. 17. 

The board held a public hearing regarding a nuisance at 12653 Davenport St., Center Junction. Land Use Administrator Michele Lubben and County Attorney Kristofer Lyons said no progress had been made on the nuisance. 

Prior to the hearing, the owner’s lawyer asked for a delay in the matter. Lyon advised the supervisors against delaying the hearing and nuisance abatement. 

Lubben said per communication with the owner’s lawyer, she advised their presence was requested. No one was present at the hearing except neighboring property owners who attested to the lack of progress in cleaning up the property. 

Lubben said an initial nuisance letter was sent out in March, indicating the nuisance has been ongoing. 

“If the situation was seeing progress being made, but they’re not doing anything,” said Lyons. 

The board approved giving the owner another two weeks to abate the nuisance and clean up the property to a habitable condition. If no progress was made, a civil citation would be assessed. Lubben said if the fine was not paid within a reasonable time, it could be assessed against the property as a tax lien. 

Lubben updated the board on two additional nuisances. 

The board granted an extension through Sept. 23 for 24453 Highway 151, Cascade. 

A public hearing was set to discuss abating a nuisance at 24052 Ridge Rd., Anamosa. 

The board approved an Alteration of Right-of-Way permit for the resurfacing of a portion of Butterfield Road near Cascade. This is a private project. 

The project calls for 1,035 feet of paving. 

“I don’t anticipate any issues,” County Engineer Derek Snead said. 

The contractor was expected to begin last week or early this week, with a couple days of prep work. Snead estimated 15 to 20 days of work before the project was wrapped up. 

“It should be done some time in October,” he said. 

The board approved two Living Roadway Trust Fund grants for Secondary Roads. Wes Gibbs, Roadside manager, was awarded $1,832 for a UTV spray unit. He also received $2,316 for a UTV fire unit. Secondary Roads is responsible for 20 percent of the total costs. 

The board approved an appraisal conducted by Jeff and JoAnn Hinz of Anamosa to purchase a small piece of unused county right of way. Notice will be sent out to adjacent property owners. 

The Hinzes plan to purchase .14 acres at a cost of $1,800.

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