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Council Says It's "Not In The Mood" To Pay More For Behind-Schedule Well Project

Ford well field construction project months behind schedule

The township’s construction at the Ford Well Field, a new water well in Mahwah, may take more time and money than originally anticipated.

At an update presentation at Thursday night’s town council meeting, representatives from township utility engineer Malcolm Pirnie said the construction company handling the project is several months behind its anticipated schedule, and will “probably not” finish by the date it expected.

Pirnie said it is “very aggressively” pushing the contractor, APS Contracting, to get back on track.

Business Administrator Brian Campion explained that the cost of the construction, about $3.36M, will not increase as a result of the extended time period. Additionally, appropriate penalties will be assessed if the project is not completed on time, he said.

However, Council President John Roth brought up concerns that the longer construction period will up the costs of Pirnie’s engineering fees associated with overseeing the project. “Time is money and the township will be stuck with the bill,” he said.

The original $353,000 engineering price tag may rise by $40,000 if the project remains behind schedule.

“The council is not in the mood to spend a lot more money on this project,” Roth said.

Though Campion pointed out that the penalty money paid by the contractor can be used to cover the engineering costs, Pirnie’s representatives said that would work “to a certain extent,” and that they were unsure of the exact numbers. The council said it was not satisfied with that option.

The town has been working toward the project since January of this year.

According to Pirnie, the delay in construction is due to a combination of factors including modifications made to the plans for the new well, equipment delivery issues, and the contractor having to redo some of the work already done at Pirnie’s request. “It’s due to factors that are his fault and one’s that aren’t,” representatives from the engineering company said.

Councilman Sam Alderisio questioned whether or not the company is qualified to do the work, citing his persistent concern that the town should not automatically award construction projects to the company with the lowest bid, but should take into account its experience and skill level. This is the only project APS is working on in Mahwah.

Pirnie said, in “all fairness,” this project is a “very complicated” one. Representatives said they noted in the original plan that they’d need to be very vigilant in overseeing this project, and they have been.

The council requested that the engineer come to the next meeting with options explaining the different ways the township could proceed, and at what costs. Councilman John Spiech warned that lessening the frequency of engineer inspections on the construction site would not be something he would want to see happen.

Malcolm Pirnie said it would be back at the council next meeting with options. But, however the council decides to proceed, “the work needs to be done by May or June, the latest,” so that the new well is in place in time for the township’s busiest water-using season.

Bob Lockwood December 02, 2011 at 08:46 PM
Malcolm Pirnie said last night that their "back-of-the-envelope" guess was an additional $78K for 'over-run' management. There are a couple problems with this. (1) They were supposed to come back with a firm plan last night. This "back-of-the-envelope" guess does not seem like a firm plan. Malcolm Pirnie has been promising a firm plan ever since 10-13-2011. We have yet to see a firm plan. Does any one know how to use "MS-Project"? At $200/hr I would hope that someone over there is tracking this effort with a contemporary project management tool. (2) Malcolm Pirnie has not been forth coming during this project. It was unclear during the Board dialog what Malcolm Pirnie's role really is for their $353,600 share of this $3,717,560 project. None-the-less it seems like they are clearly responsible for keeping the Town Administration up-to-date with progress, issues and remedies. Upon close examination of their status reports and their lack of attendance at town meetings they have not been forth coming with identifying the impact of the problems on this project.

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