Company dropped from Salem sewer line work protests

SALEM — A representative of the company whose contract for the Snyder Road sewer line extension project was terminated last month told the city Utilities Commission he didn’t agree with their decision, one which he called irresponsible.

“Termination of this contract will prove to be a blemish on the record of this commission that unfortunately will be borne by the shoulders of the public. I wish we could have had a discussion before this step was taken. Regrettably, there is only one path forward from here. I remain committed to a civil closeout of this project with all legitimate costs incurred to be compensated in a timely manner,” Rudzik Excavating senior project manager Jim Tressa said.

Tressa sent an email last week to Utilities Superintendent Don Weingart requesting a time slot at the commission meeting Tuesday to make a statement on behalf of the company.

At the beginning of the meeting Tuesday, he read from a two-page long written statement regarding the project, how his office was happy with the numbers when he prepared the bid and how he had no issue trying to hold the pricing at the February 2019 level for an extended period of time when asked because it was a good project and he took into consideration the position the engineer and owner were in.

The Struthers firm had been awarded the project last February after submitting the low bid for $1,827,449, but wasn’t given the notice to proceed until October after the engineer had some issues securing the easements needed for the route, causing a delay. After the easements were secured and a pre-construction meeting held, the contract start date for Rudzik was set at Oct. 10, giving the company 220 days to finish the work by May 17 this year.

Tressa then described what happened last month, when he was shocked with an email on Jan. 17 informing him of the contract termination. He said there had been unforeseen issues from a water line break and fiberoptic line complications, but no major concerns had been brought to his attention and the issues were being addressed by the company’s project manager and by the project engineer, Jon Vollnogle of Howells and Baird.

“Though these obstacles were encountered, there were no significant disputes, no discussion of deadlines and certainly no discussion of termination of contract,” Tressa said.

He also said there was never a conversation about what commission Chairman Bob Hodgson described as “a dissatisfaction with how the project was going.” Tressa took issue with how Hodgson “portrayed the project” in the Salem News, including saying there were “major conflicts” between the project engineer and contractor. The week of the termination, company personnel met with the engineer about added costs in what Tressa described as civil meetings.

He also took issue with Hodgson saying there were a lot of contractors looking for this type of work and that the project won’t cost more in the long run. According to Tressa, the commission has “invited higher cost, delayed completion and subpar workmanship” through the termination. He said it’s not a normal project and requires big equipment, vast knowledge and experience.

He said meetings never happened regarding termination and now the company is left without the revenue a completed project would bring. As a result, he said three of the 11 workers on the project have been laid off and others are dealing with reduced hours.

“To this day, we have yet to receive any reason as to why the contract was terminated. The additional costs that were the result of unforeseen circumstances would have occurred with any other contractor performing this work,” he said, adding they haven’t been paid or heard a response on the extra costs the company incurred.

He said he just wants the project closed out for the company.

The commission didn’t respond to Tressa’s statement during the meeting, but when asked for a response after the meeting, Hodgson said there were discussions conducted to try to resolve the issues, previous to the commission making its decision. He said there were at least three discussions in executive session and that a company representative was made aware of the issues.

“This was not spur of the moment. It should not be a surprise,” Hodgson said.

He said the engineer has reviewed the extra charges and is working on finalizing the contract with Rudzik. As for rebidding, he said the plan is being updated and will be rebid within a month.

“This was not an easy decision to do,” he said.

Newgarden Avenue, where work had been done to bore under the railroad tracks, had been closed for an extended time, but was reopened not long ago. There’s still a lot of work left to do to get the line to Snyder Road.



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