Unexpected costs total $150,000

By Lynn R. Parks

The city of Seaford is looking at nearly $150,000 in unexpected costs to take care of three problems that emerged over the past week. Money to pay the bills will come out of the city's reserve accounts.

The largest bill, for nearly $128,000, is to replace a sewer main on North Street. While doing work to complete the city's project to improve its storm water system, workers with contractor A. P. Croll discovered that clay pipes that are part of the main were cracked.

Croll initially told the city that it would charge $145,000 to repair the pipes. This would be on top of the $1.882 million that the contractor is being paid to do the storm water project.

City manager Dolores Slatcher told the city council Tuesday night that through negotiations, the city had gotten that price down to $135,000. But even that, she said, is too high. "It would not be that high if they were bidding for it," she said.

City workers have figured that the cost of the job should be a little more than $127,600, Slatcher said. Following her suggestion, the city council approved that amount to be spent to repair the pipes.

If A. P. Croll is unable to repair the pipes for that price, the city will forego the project. Slatcher cautioned the council that in not fixing the pipes, the city would be taking a risk. "If the pipes break we will have to go back and fix them," she said. "But we are convinced that this is the price that we need to have the work done."

Money for the pipe repair will come from the city's sewer impact fee reserve account. The second unexpected cost came after representatives of the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the state's Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control conducted a regular inspection of the city's power plant. The downtown plant, which sits on the Nanticoke River, has not operated since late 2005. But still located on the property are three water wells from which the plant used to draw cooling water.

During the inspection, oil was discovered in one of the wells. If oil is in the well, it means that oil can seep into groundwater and on into the Nanticoke River. The EPA has requested that the city pump out all three wells, clean them with high pressure nozzles and eliminate the source of the oil.

In a memo to Slatcher, the city's director of power, Rick Garner, suggested that the city fill in all three wells. Cost to do this, as well as to clean up the water and eliminate the source of the oil, would be $11,500, he said. Additional money might be needed, he added, if the project requires more extensive consulting and testing. Money to pay for this will come from the city's electric reserve fund.

"We really don't have any choice" other than to do as the EPA has requested, Slatcher told the council. If the city doesn't take action, it would most likely have to pay a penalty, she added.

As with the first cost, the third unexpected cost came as a result of the city's storm water system improvement project. The city contracted with Hastings Marine Construction to plant vegetation in Williams Pond to protect wetlands there in the vicinity of the storm water outfall. Cost of that, including $1,000 for a state permit, was $9,000. The city also contracted with NCM Demolition to remove asbestos from an abandoned water main. Cost for that was $1,890.

Neither the wetlands work nor the asbestos removal was done by the contractor for the storm water improvement project, A. P. Croll. In a memo to the city council, Slatcher said that the city arranged for the work to be done outside of the contract in order to save money, and because Croll does not have the permit required to haul asbestos waste. In the past, she added, such work has "been considered contingencies in the contract."

When the state, which is funding the storm water project, questioned why the wetland work as well as the asbestos removal wasn't done by A. P. Croll, the city opted to recommend to the city council that it pay for the work from local funds. "We do not want any questions raised later that may impact our funding," Slatcher wrote in the memo.

Total cost for the wetlands and asbestos removal projects is $10,980. Money will come from the city's sewer reserve account.

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