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.

Old Cynical Man on Friday, March 29 2013:

I say spray the rock face with "Great Stuff" that expandable foam. Silly idea - but hey - the product is really great stuff. Any screening with anchors won't help at all if there is an earthquake over 6.5 on the Richter nearby.

Curious on Friday, March 29 2013:

Just Saying,
I have no argument with any of your points or opinions. My question to you is: What are the chances you will come out from behind your screen name and stand behind what you so emphatically believe? Did you put your name in for the open council seat so that you could help make the difference you feel is needed? Are you showing up to meetings and participating or just being an armchair quarterback getting some anonymous digs in? Get in there, be a part of the solution instead of constantly pointing out the problem. Your community clearly needs you.

Just Saying on Friday, March 29 2013:

I too watched the taping of the council meeting. I found it very thought-provoking and summarized the meeting as our community being “Stuck between a rock and a hard place.”

Advanced Blasting, “the best of the best,” was awarded the project after a successful bid. Note: 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. Apparently this was not a comprehensive geological study provided by the city? You would think there would have been a complete and comprehensive geological study done before hand, right? It wasn’t until the rock slides started, was the study requested.

Who of you on city council, and with the city, were around when the “airport rock issues” arose? Did you not learn from past history on similar issues? Do you really think the composition of the rocks here in Dutch would be any different from then to now? For those that have been here, Shouldn’t you have known better? Why did the city wait to provide a comprehensive geological study? Why are you trying to “cut corners” “in the interest of time?” Just plan better..

I believe the city failed to provide a comprehensive study because of poor planning and trying to cut corners…you know the old go to statement, “in the interest of time.” I believe the city could have done a better job in planning. I believe the city council members should have asked better questions and demand the city be better prepared, “in the interest of time.”

Which bring s me to my next point, Johnson asks Saunders why the original $1.4 million contract didn’t include that work. Answer: Yes it should have….but because the city provided poor geological data to the bidders. Advanced Blasting is doing what they can, and bringing these issues to the city. Don’t ask this of Saunders; ask this of the city manager. Direct the responsibility or lack thereof to whom it really lays. Johnson, you know…this is just like the museum remodel.

Members of the council don’t think you are free of responsibilities in this matter. You should have asked more detailed questions, held the city manager to a higher and more proficient standard. You voted to go forward with the project without any forward thinking and let the city manager maneuver his way through a “ I’ll put a band aid” on it…in the interest of time. Really? In the interest of time, and in the interest of the tax payers, and community, why didn’t you do a better job in planning? Its east spending someone else’s money, isn’t it?

So after all of that, here is the real concern, as I mentioned earlier, we…the community, are stuck between a rock and a hard place. If we don’t get this rock issue taken care of, and soon, the deadline put in place by the Department of Justice in building the new waste water treatment plant will have come and gone. If the deadline is missed, it will cost members of the community more and more. We have the best of the best here and now, the council should have granted a change order so the work could continue and resolve this issue. Rather, the council decided to wait another three weeks. Although I applaud the councils efforts in assuring our tax payer dollars are wisely spent, I think they have missed the boat on this one.

People of the community, we need to hold the city, city manager, and the council, and mayor responsible for all of the over budget projects, all of the additional costs, we as tax payers have to carry, because no one is holding those in officer accountable. How much more do you want to pay for these senseless mistakes? Over and over again, this has to stop. Stop saying okay! Council members, Mayor, and city manager…all of you… If you are looking to blame someone look in the mirror. You are the ones to blame for this. Fix it!!!! Stop looking for a scape goat. I said this before, and will say it again, members of the community, we need to hold these people accountable or elect people how can, and I am speaking to all council, mayoral, and city management positions.

Just saying…..

Unaware on Friday, March 29 2013:

I just watched the rerun of the council meeting on channel 8. WOW.

Hi, I am Nancy Peterson, "I am unaware... and I am unsure...". Really???? This is the person in charge of our multi million dollar projects??? Not even around to go to the meeting?? How does this happen to our hard earned tax dollars?

Good job to the council for not letting our city management throw our money away. At least a good job to all the council members that were present.

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