COLUMBIANA - A change in cost to a $14.6 million dollar project in the city has members of council debating whether to renegotiate with the engineering company hired in 2008.
City Manager Keith Chamberlin told council on Tuesday the company hired for the new water treatment plant project is asking for more money.
Arcadis Engineering of Youngstown was hired by the city on a $690,000 contract. At that time the plant was to be designed, bid and constructed by 2011. The company has since completed the design phase of the project but a delay in state funding kept the city from entering the bidding phase for construction.
The city was seeking a $4.4 million grant and a $10.2 million zero-interest 40-year loan through the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development Water and Waste Disposal Program.
The funding was awarded this year after Congressman Bill Johnson interceded on the city's behalf. The loan and grant will cover the cost of the project and Councilman Bryan Blakeman said after the meeting the city has "several million" dollars in water department funding saved up to pay back the loan.
It was his suggestion during the meeting that council renegotiate with Arcadis regarding the cost increase.
The company is asking for a four percent annual increase on the previously approved construction phase and resident project representation fees to account for the project delay. The original proposal for construction and fees was $790,000 and the company is now asking for $938,642.
Included in the cost increase is $50,000 for the company to re-submit requests for now expired building permits and design components.
A company official explained in a letter to the city this month that the project's delay resulted in the need to re-validate the previously issued but expired permits, among other changes.
Chamberlin said the four percent increase was included in the original contract.
"The only thing they are asking extra that was not in the original contract was this $50,000," he said.
He added that since it has been little more than four years since the project was designed, previously-approved equipment may no longer be available.
"It's not their fault the project hasn't went forward," he said.
But Blakeman doesn't believe the city should pay the additional money hands-down and at one point called the cost increase a "racket of stealing money."
"My proposal is they come in here and we renegotiate," he said.
He added that another option would be to rebid the engineering portion, but Councilman Lowell Schloneger countered that any changes at this point will result in more money being spent.
Councilman James King agreed that additional money will be spent no matter what but felt that council should talk with Arcadis about the requested increase.
"I don't see why we can't have them come in and negotiate this down," he said.
Chamberlin said he will ask Arcadis to speak with council at a special meeting set for 7 p.m. July 3.
The new water treatment plant is planned to be constructed on the same property as the existing plant located at the southeast end of the city near Metz Road. The existing plant was constructed in 1933 and updated in 1957 and the Ohio Department of Health and Ohio Environmental Protection Agency have both cited the importance of replacing the current system.