Wastewater Site Prep Goes Out to Bid
Thursday, March 28 2013
A contract to stabilize the rock face behind the wastewater treatment plant will go out to bid. City council held a special meeting Thursday afternoon to consider a $2.1 million change order to Advanced Blasting’s existing contract, but the resolution failed, 5-0. Councilor Roger Rowland was absent.
City manager Chris Hladick said staff will try to collect and evaluate the bids within three weeks.
Julia Saunders, the owner of Advanced Blasting, flew in from Anchorage to take questions from council. Most were related to the high cost of the stabilization system, which would use heavy-duty mesh and customized dowels to pin the rock face together.
Councilor Zoya Johnson asked Saunders why the original, $1.4 million contract didn’t include that work.
"The contract – the original contract was [for] civil site preparation," Johnson said. "Civil site preparation would have to include the stabilization of the rocks, right?"
Saunders said the geological data that was available to Advanced Blasting and other bidders on the original job indicated that the rock face was less precarious than it turned out to be.
Johnson asked city manager Chris Hladick what that meant in this situation.
"So basically, any bidder that participated, whether they were granted the bid or not, would have come across this kind of issue and we would be facing [a] change order right now from anybody?" Johnson asked.
"That would be an assumption," Hladick replied.
Advanced Blasting noticed that the cliff was unstable by October 24, Saunders said. The company notified city staff at a check-in meeting.
"So at that point, within a couple weeks of starting the project, when we saw that the geology was not looking very competent, we did bring it to hand," Saunders said. "At that stage, we didn’t expose the large fault zone areas and we weren’t into the really bad areas of the material. And at that time, we suggested something that was financially feasible for the city."
Advanced Blasting added a simple, unsecured mesh curtain in a change order, to help stabilize the western part of the cliff. It was one of seven change order the city has authorized over the course of the project, totaling $450,000.
But Saunders added that as they moved in towards more unstable rock, the problem grew.
"What we didn’t predict are these huge fault zones that you can see on the video and you can see looking up there," Saunders said.
Four huge rock slides have occurred at the work site since January. Advanced Blasting caught three of them on tape, and showed a short video at the meeting. In the clip, a truck-sized hunk of rock broke off and crashed to the ground.
When the rock slides started, Advanced Blasting requested a comprehensive geotechnical assessment of the cliff. City staff called R&M Consulting in Anchorage to complete the review, using funds from the plant construction budget.
R&M found it’s not safe to start construction at the work site until the problem is fixed. But that creates a host of other issues.
The city needs to build a new wastewater treatment plant and bring the system online by 2016, according to a settlement with the Department of Justice.
Any delays in that schedule could result in fines, city manager Chris Hladick said.
"I think it’s $22,500 the first month and $44,000 thereafter," he said. "There’s also violations for not meeting the limits set in the permit. Those are daily, monthly -- to sit down and figure out what those are, it’s off the charts."
After the meeting, Hladick told KUCB that he has not asked the Environmental Protection Agency to consider adjusting the deadlines because of the rock slides.
As he understands it, Unalaska is only eligible for extra time in the event of a federal permitting delay. Hladick says bad site conditions and unforeseen expenses probably wouldn’t qualify.
That’s why the city is expediting the bidding process. Hladick says they’re hoping to put a request for proposals out as soon as possible.