Lincoln City: SE 48th Street project goes sideways in more ways than one…but there was some good news too.
When Southeast 48th Place slumped out from last winter’s rains, it involved more than just the street damage. It also affected underground water and sewer lines that ran deep alongside the road. The city set out to repair the damage and hired the Devils Lake Rock Company to do the job. But when Devils Lake Rock went looking for the water main, they couldn’t find it despite having the recorded “design build” plans right in their hands. City public works employees were at a loss as to why the line couldn’t be found.
When Devils Lake Rock finally found the line, its easterly connection point was about 100 feet further east than the contract plans indicated and that the westerly connection was about 4 feet deeper than found on the plans. Worse yet, the fill material used to shore up the pipe had to be dug out and replaced with sturdier fill and lots of rock. City Engineer Stephanie Reid told the council that because the pipes in the ground didn’t replicate the drawings in the “as built” plans, the cost of repairing the line could cost twice as much as budgeted.
Councilors immediately wondered out loud if there was any possible recourse against the engineering firms that performed the work back in the eighties or the contractor that did road work there in 2005. Nobody could come up with a workable answer. Reid told the council that city staff trusted the firms that did the work and that they came highly recommended – but clearly something went wrong. She said the city pays much closer attention these days to how projects play out.
But you could see the frustration among the councilors. At that point City Manager David Hawker joined the conversation saying that there are many older pipes in the ground that need fixing from time to time and that it would be very costly to go out and bore and drill to confirm that the pipes supposedly down there are in fact DOWN THERE! He said to do that would be cost prohibitive and so, “Once in a while one of these things comes along and we have to deal with it. It doesn’t happen often. I apologize. We had the authority to spend the extra money without council review but we wanted to be transparent and let you know.”
Council members said they appreciated the transparency They also asked Reid to report back as to what the final bill will be. Money to pay the extra cost will come from the city’s overall water capital projects budget, according to a staff report.
On a brighter note, Hawker reported that third quarter hotel-motel room tax collections were up in July by 7.7%, a new record increase for that month. Room taxes were also up 4.9% in August, another new record. However, because it rained most of September, room taxes fell in September. He said he expects the numbers for October should better because October weather was much better.
Hawker said overall, the city is up 6% on room taxes. He said despite the slow economic recovery growth rates are well ahead of past years.