By David Skolnick
A major downtown sewer project that’s had a number of problems is costing the city more money again.
The city’s board of control voted Thursday to more than double its payment to MS Consultants of Youngstown for additional design work needed for the North Phelps Street project.
MS originally was paid $199,359 with the board agreeing Thursday to pay the company an additional $199,637, bringing the project’s design cost to $398,996.
On July 2, the board approved $205,668.70 worth of change orders for Marucci and Gaffney, the project’s contractor. Those change orders are equal to 20.2 percent of the project’s original cost of $1,016,400.31.
With the money approved for MS, the project’s overall expense increased by 33 percent from $1,215,759.31 to $1,621,065.01.
And not only is the project costing more money, but its completion is being delayed considerably.
The work originally was to be finished next month. The completion date is now sometime next spring, said Kedar Bhide, construction engineer for the public works department.
The delay mostly is caused by the discovery in March that underground utility lines, AT&T in particular, are not where maps showed them to be. AT&T wires and a duct bank containing telephone conduits underground are directly in the path of the sewer line, city officials say.
“It was an unforeseen condition and they have to be relocated,” Bhide said. “It’s a significant change.”
It will take MS about two to four months for the design work, and then AT&T and other utility companies will relocate their lines and other underground equipment before the city can replace the sewer line on North Phelps Street between West Federal and West Commerce streets, Bhide said.
That street will be closed when the utility work and the sewer-line replacement project is done, he said.
The project replaces the North Phelps Street sewer line from West Federal Street to Lincoln Avenue, including replacing a pedestrian walkway between West Commerce and West Wood streets.
The project has been challenging, city officials say.
“The amount of unknowns we’ve had on this project is the most I’ve ever seen,” Charles Shasho, the city’s deputy director of public works, said earlier this month.
That includes unexpected improvements to manholes and catch basins, and a communications issue with not informing affected business owners about street closings when the project started in February.
Also Thursday, the board approved a $911,560 contract with Murphy Contracting Co. of Youngstown to build a new South Side fire station.
The city is building a station in Ipes Field that is replacing the 90-year-old Station No. 9 at Midlothian Boulevard and Sheridan Road that has structural problems.
The board also approved a $275,000 contract with Alex Downie & Sons of Youngstown to replace windows on the fourth and fifth floor of 20 Federal Place, the city-owned downtown office building. Those two floors house VXI Global Solutions, a call center with about 700 employees and the building’s largest employer.
A provision of VXI’s opening and expanding at the city building was the replacement of the windows on those two floors.
Original efforts to hire companies for both projects were unsuccessful as the proposals for the jobs were over the city’s estimated costs. Under city law, Youngstown isn’t permitted to award contracts for work if the proposals exceed the estimates.
The specifications for both projects were adjusted with reductions made in order to obtain proposals below the estimates.