Cost fluctuations for wastewater-treatment plant in Niles anger leaders

Staff report


City council is not happy with the explanation for a sudden increase and subsequent decrease in the estimated costs of its new wastewater treatment plant.

The total project cost, believed by several members of council to be $30 million, suddenly skyrocketed in July to $43 million, an increase of nearly 70 percent. The estimate has changed again, this time to a somewhat lower figure.

MWH Americas Inc. of Broomfield, Colo., the engineering firm contracted by the city to design the project, now estimates the total cost at $36.6 million.

“I don’t trust you guys,” responded an angry Steve Papalas, D-At Large. “The only reason you’ve come down (from $43 million) is because we started to squawk.”

Thomas Ungar, principal engineer for the project, said he had told council at the outset that the $30 million estimate was limited to construction costs only. Ungar said that the firm’s initial building estimate was too low.

“$30 million was not correct in the first place [and] that was the problem,” Unger admitted during an occasionally contentious meeting with council. The engineer said the mistake was made in basing the initial design on another plant with similar capacities to those that will be required for the Niles facility.

“We didn’t put all the construction components into the price,” the engineer later told The Vindicator. “There were two components, we took one, didn’t add the other one and we should have.”

Read the full story Monday in The Vindicator and on

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