Never-ending sewer project defies attempts to close it


News editor

Peabody City Council spent more time reviewing the different options available to close out the sewer project, get copies of the "as built" plans from engineer Al Reiss, and have deficiencies and problems addressed.

City administrator Jeff Benbrook requested an updated project budget from Reiss. The last budget in the city's files is dated Jan. 30, 2006.

"We need to know if this copy is still accurate and up to date," he said. "Is it, Al?"

Reiss said he thought it was still accurate. At the March 31 meeting Reiss presented council with a bill for $3,500 he said represented the amount the city still owed him for completion of the project.

Benbrook said that since that meeting he had reviewed all initial bids, the change orders, and payment vouchers and the records show the city only owes Reiss $1,259.70.

In addition, he found an error where the city had been billed for a $3,000 engineering service twice and had paid it twice.

A similar review of the budget revealed that grant administrator Bill Strait is still owed $1,500 and Middlecreek Mining Corporation's final statement for $8,500 also is correct.

A discussion of the history of the project included former mayor Tom Schmidt who was present in the audience. Proposals for additional funds by Middlecreek and Reiss (in addition to the final statements already addressed) to wind up the project also were reviewed.

Reiss has proposed he be paid $3,000 to tell Middlecreek where to put dirt at the former sewer location and what elevations to create.

Middlecreek has proposed an additional $2,100 for a valve that was initially put in the wrong place and had to be replaced. (The valve was installed correctly according to the plans, but it was later determined the plans were incorrect. Middlecreek replaced the valve, but the city has not reimbursed them for doing so.)

Middlecreek also has asked for $20,000 to remobilize its equipment and get it back on-site to finish the demolition.

"The problem is the project is not ready to be closed out," Benbrook said. "We have a list of deficiencies and we still have not seen a copy of the 'as built' plans.

"It is my recommendation the council talk to Mr. Reiss about what he proposes to do about the deficiencies and why he won't send the 'as built' plans."

Reiss countered that the city has all the plans and Benbrook said the city has received three copies of the plans from Reiss, but they all are copies of Reiss' proposal for the sewer system, not a copy of what was actually built. The most recent copy includes a change order issued in 2005.

"Why have we not ever received the 'as built' plans, Al?" asked Benbrook.

Reiss admitted he didn't know and Benbrook officially advised the mayor and council to do nothing until their demands are met.

No action was taken to pay any final statements or proposals. General consensus of the council indicated a stalemate until the proper set of plans is produced and problems and deficiencies are addressed.

The council did request a change order for the ill-placed valve so that Middlecreek could be paid for that item. There also was discussion of creating an addendum instead of a change order for Middlecreek to finish the demolition, but no action was taken.

The council also approved work agreements for Bob Kyle and Dennis Pickens, longtime seasonal employees.

The maintenance agreement with the school district combined with funds from Union Pacific Railroad and Burlington-Northern-Santa Fe Railroad for mowing and maintenance along their rights-of-way will contribute to the salaries of the summer help. Acceptance of Kyle's work agreement was unanimous and Pickens' passed 4-1 with Rose opposed.

In other business, the council:

— voted 4-1, with Rose opposed, to have city public works crew abate the nuisance at 509 N. Locust. City employees will remove items listed in the resolution to abate. No time frame was established for this action.

— unanimously approved an employment agreement with Beth Peter to hire her as a full-time seasonal employee to manage the pool. She will be on duty 40 hours a week at a salary of $5,500 for the 22-week season. Any unforeseen crises will require her presence even if she already has served the 40 hours and she will need to fill in if any of her staff fail to appear for work.

Council postponed discussion of age, training, and pay requirements for lifeguards until a later meeting.

— also approved an agreement with Peabody swim team for the 2008 season. The swim team will pay the city $8 per child. The official head count will take place at the first official swim meet and payment will be made at the end of the swim team season. The students will practice five days a week for two hours a day and the city will pay the lifeguards. In addition, Peabody will host one swim meet. The season is six weeks long.

— approved a "purchase" by Peabody-Burns Recreation Commission of two free swim days and four family swim nights for $750. Also rejected a request for a 50/50 split on the cost of red shale for the baseball diamond at city park because of financial restraints. Council did offer the use of city staff and equipment to level the field when the shale is brought in.

— reviewed a list of nuisance properties with health and safety officer Tammy Whiteside. Whiteside told council members she had been in contact with Bobbi Strait concerning the property at 805 Plum that the fire department was going to burn as a training exercise. She reported Strait is concerned about asbestos in the floor tile. Strait also said the roofing material should be removed first. No action was taken.

— heard from acting Main Street director Shane Marler about plans to re-install the large highway sign that was taken down a year ago. Marler also reviewed plans for the upcoming "Operation Celebration" and discussed his intention of working with Larry Larsen and Peabody Economic Development to create some incentive options or enterprise zones to attract businesses.

— heard the final presentation of the city's comprehensive plan will be given May 7, time and place to be announced.

— heard from Benbrook that USD 398 had approved a joint maintenance agreement. All that remains is for the city to approve it, sign it, and send it back. With an abstention by Peterson who is employed by the district, the agreement was approved, 4-0-1.

— approved a permit for a private water well to be drilled at 211 N. Elm.

— postponed a decision on a street repair bid from Inland Paving because of insufficient information.

— postponed for information from police chief Burke, a request by PMSA to barricade the 100 block of South Walnut May 24 and 25.

— approved a fee of $250 to cover the purchase, planting, and initial care of memorial trees for city park. The amount also covers inclusion of a name on a memorial sign at the shelter house. Details will be left to the park support group.

— tabled until April 28 a work agreement with PMSA interim director Shane Marler to clarify concerns about a conflict of interest.

— instructed Benbrook to check with the League of Municipalities for information about getting refunds for federal excise tax embedded in products such as fuel. A consulting group had presented an offer of assistance to the city. Council members felt the city administrator should be able to find the information without paying a 50 percent finder's fee to a consultant.

— entered an executive session at the end of the regular meeting for the purpose of discussing personnel. No action was taken on return to open session.