Trumbull engineering contract has language aimed at holding companies accountable

By Ed Runyan


Trumbull County commissioners have approved an engineering contract with an Akron company that they hope will make that company – and others in the future – more accountable for poor performance.

New sections were added to the engineering contract between the commissioners and Glaus, Pyle, Schomer, Burns & DeHaven, also known as GDP Group, to design the fifth phase of the Little Squaw Creek Interceptor sewer project in Vienna Township.

That project will continue sewers north on state Route 193 past the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport from near the Warren-Sharon Road intersection.

The new language comes as a result of challenges the county has faced in recent months with an earlier phase of the Squaw Creek project and the $10.6 million Kinsman sewer project. Both were the subject of legal action filed by the county against the construction contractor.

But a panel of arbitrators later issued a decision stating that “greater weight of evidence” indicated that poor engineering by engineering company MS Consultants of Youngstown and poor project management by MS and the county – not poor construction – was to blame for the problems with the sewer.

The county is in negotiations with MS in an effort to recoup as much as $2.4 million that officials believe the arbitrators’ decision will cost the county and many of its sanitary-sewer customers.

The county is in nonbinding mediation with MS, Commissioner Mauro Cantalamessa said.

The contract calls for paying GDP $224,561.

One of the new sections in the GDP contract says GDP “shall deliver” to the county “accurate design plans and specifications that are in accordance with sound engineering principles, applicable building and construction standards and codes.”

It says that “In the event said plans and specifications are determined by a court of competent jurisdiction to be inaccurate, non-buildable ... due to the negligent or willfull misconduct of the engineer, the engineer shall be financially responsible for any resultant additional project costs or financial damages incurred” by the county.

Commissioner Frank Fuda said the engineering contractors “are not happy with” the new language, “But we’re not here for the contractors, we’re here for the citizens of Trumbull County.”

Commissioner Dan Polivka said of the new language, “I think it’s a good contract,” and he supports using that language in future contracts.

He said he also has other ideas for ways to bid engineering and construction as a package that would guarantee that the price would not exceed a specific amount. He said he is not aware of any other governmental entities that use such a system.

Cantalamessa said the GDP contract and others in the future will require disputes between the county and the company to be handled in state court, not by arbitrators.

The dispute involving the Kinsman project was resolved through a panel of arbitrators, as was required under the contract.

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