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NEWBERRY – Newberry City Commissioners were faced with unexpected expenses during their March 12 meeting.

The first unexpected expense was the cost of nearly $43,000 to perform geo-technical repairs to remediate a sinkhole that opened up at the intersection of Southwest 3rd Place and Southwest 265th Terrace.

During Hurricane Irma, Newberry experienced more than 10 inches of rainfall. Two sinkholes and a water main had to be repaired due to that event. As those repairs were being conducted, a stop sign on the northwest corner of the intersection was observed as it slowly sank into the ground several feet.

The City contacted GSE Engineering and Consulting, Inc. to perform a geotechnical site evaluation to determine if additional sinkhole activity was occurring under this intersection, which would also potentially damage the potable water mains and sanitary manhole/gravity sewer lines located at the intersection.

Based on their report, the City went out for bids and obtained three, but the bid amounts were above the purchasing policy threshold that requires sealed bids. According to the staff report by Director of Utilities and Public Works Jamie Jones, “Staff has also worked with FEMA to secure funding for these repairs, but it remains to be determined as to if the work will be eligible for FEMA funding.”

Ultimately, commissioners voted to authorize City Manager Mike New to execute a purchase order for $42,990 and have GSE Engineering oversee the geo-technical repairs to the intersection. They also authorized New to approve change orders not to exceed 15 percent of the purchase order amount.

“The repair will be made by pumping concrete under the street to fill a bunch of voids,” said New. “I expect repairs to be completed within a month,” he said.

A second issue requiring immediate attention was emergency repairs to the waste water treatment plant (WWTP) tank #2, which had suffered a critical failure. The staff report indicated, “The failure was to the clarifier drive unit, which caused structural and mechanical damage to the clarifier, rendering it inoperable.” As the City only has three tanks and Tank #3 is currently operating at 100 percent of design capacity, Tank #2required repairs as soon as possible.

Tank #1, which had already been taken out of commission to make recommended repairs, is being readied to go back into service. Funding of $125,000 budgeted for repairs to Tank #1 are being redirected to repair Tank #2, this year and to schedule repairs to Tank #1 next year. “Basically, we just switched the order of those repairs and will repair Tank #2 next year,” said New.

In addition, the Commission authorized suspension of the requirement for competitive procurement and authorized the city manager to execute a purchase order with a qualified contractor to perform all necessary repairs.

It is anticipated that a qualified contractor would be on site in two to three weeks. The repairs will likely take approximately 90 days to complete.

A third item commissioners considered was the transfer of a little more than $76,000 into the Fire Station Construction fund to complete the work begun in January 2017 by Tumbleson White Construction, Inc. (TWC). According to a summary of this issue, “the project was scheduled to be substantially complete on Aug. 17, 2017.”

The City terminated the agreement on Nov. 8, 2017 due to default by TWC. In December 2018, commissioners directed staff to complete TWC's work using the same subcontractors that had been used by TWC.

The City had paid TWC for work completed by their subcontractors. However, TWC failed to pay their subcontractors for work they had completed on the Fire Station project.

“It was very important to the city commissioners that the subcontractors not be penalized because Tumbleson White Constructors went out of business prior to paying them,” said New. The commission authorized payment to the subcontractors for work completed prior to TWC's termination for which TWC had been paid. At the time the City estimated that the cost to complete TWC's work scope and pay the subcontractors was a little more than $88,000.

Additional subcontractors who said they, too, had not been paid by TWC began to come forward. After the claims were substantiated, the total amount to complete TWC's work scope is $126,201, leaving a difference of $38,169.

Commissioners approved staff's recommendation to provide funding of $43,600 from budgeted projects that are unlikely to be used during this fiscal year and the balance of $32,500 from General Fund reserves, which currently total $1,450,000.

“We will pursue this matter further with TWC, which will take some time,” said New. “Right now we are paying for this project twice to get it completed,” he said.

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