Project Manager Explains DPW Problems

Special Bellevue meeting held to address construction delay, neighborhood disruptions

The project manager responsible for overseeing two Bellevue construction projects explained recent problems that have arisen and apologized to residents for weekend disruptions during a special meeting of Bellevue Council on Thursday, May 13. The bottom line, however, is that the cost of the projects will push closer to the $1 million mark.

Council president Rich Furis said that he assembled Council members, representatives of project manager Weber Murphy Fox (WMF), neighbors and other interested parties to overcome some communications problems that have developed in the construction of the new public works (DPW) facility and road salt building. Council also sought answers to hold ups in the DPW building construction and an error in the salt bin construction that has made it unuseable for its intended purpose.

When the Bellevue DPW crew began loading road salt into the new building, the top of one side wall began to bow outward. The salt was quickly removed and placed near the Bellevue Avalon Girls Athletic Association (BAGAA) playground, where neighbors said it has since become another piece of playground equipment for the children.

While this problem was being investigated, construction was stalled at the nearby DPW facility due to unstable ground and fill saturated by recent rains.

When the contractor attempted to overcome the problems in the DPW project, the result was a weekend marathon work session that left neighbors shaking – literally – in their homes.

Kim Palmer of WMF told Council that additional bridging is needed in the salt building that will involve nailing wood to the roof trusses to stabilize the side walls. Palmer said the necessary bridging was not included in the drawings provided to the contractor, and that WMF was supplying the materials and labor to rectify the situation at no cost to the Borough of Bellevue.

Palmer said Thursday that materials already had been delivered to the site, and it was hoped that the bridging would be completed by the end of the week so that road salt could be returned to the building by early this week.

Problems at the DPW facility arose, said WMF’s Tom Lution, when excavation for the foundation reached a level that geologists believed would offer stable ground, only to find no such thing. Palmer said the contractor excavated another two feet, at which point the ground started caving in. At that point work was halted while geomechanics tested the ground again.

A problem then arose with the excavated earth the contractor planned to use for fill. Palmer said that it was so saturated by rain as to be unuseable, and the decision was made to bring in rock for fill rather than wait for the dirt to dry out.

Once a solution to the problems was devised, the contractor – UNS Construction – spent Mother’s Day weekend catching up, working until nearly 11 p.m. on Saturday and returning at 8 a.m. Sunday. Neighbors said that the work being done – driving pylons and installing shoring – shook their homes so badly that items were knocked to the floor, pictures shook on the wall, and several properties were reported to have been damaged by the vibration.

Not only did Bellevue Police receive a number of calls from residents upset particularly about the late night work, but Furis was called Sunday morning and visited the site to speak with the laborers. He said that the workers were aware of the borough’s noise control ordinance but felt they had a right to keep working.

“I told them, ‘I don’t care. Go home. It’s Mother’s Day.’” Furis said.

After other Council members questioned the noise ordinance relevance, Director of Administrative Services (DAS) David Golebiewski pulled the borough law to determine the restrictions, and noted that it does not prohibit work on Sunday, although construction after 9 p.m. is not permitted. Golebiewski noted that there is an exemption available for government and emergency work.

“Our lack of planning doesn’t constitute an emergency,” Furis said, noting that not even the DAS was aware that the contractor would be engaging in such disruptive work over the weekend.

Palmer said that she believed the weekend work was only going to entail dumping the fill, and had no idea of the hours the contractor planned on working. Lution noted that the contractor was attempting to save work already done from the rain that was predicted.

“We were pushing them to salvage,” Lution said.

“It was an unfortunate situation and it’s not going to happen again,” Palmer told Council and residents. She also invited borough officials to contact her, 24 hours a day, when problems occurred, although she hoped the problems were over.

“It’s embarrassing to me and to the firm,” to have to deal with such problems, Palmer said.

The project manager also told officials that the DPW facility problems will carry a hefty price tag. Furis noted that the project was estimated to cost $932,000. Change orders to-date have totaled about $58,000, Furis said. Some $31,000 of that is attributable to the new sewer line that was constructed to replace a broken storm sewer line in the area, according to Palmer, who noted that the additional drilling needed for the caissons would add about $8,000 to the cost of the project, while the additional shoring needed will eat up some $15,000 of the $25,000 set aside in the project budget for fill.

“We don’t want to spend any more money in the borough than we have to,” Palmer said.

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