Kiyak questions waterline project cost

Remaining questions about the relining of Dunkirk’s 12-inch water line that heads west from the city’s water treatment plant may have finally been answered.

Councilwoman-at-Large Stephanie Kiyak raised the issue during Common Council’s regular meeting Tuesday, expressing some of the same concerns she raised during a Finance Committee meeting Dec. 9. During that meeting Kiyak had questions about $34,800 that was spent to replace a 2-inch water main on North Mullet Street.

Mainlining Service Inc. of Elma was the lowest of four bids for the relining project at $536,678, and completed the work earlier this fall, including the 2-inch line. Kiyak used her report time to grill Department of Public Works Director Tony Gugino about the work on Mullet Street.

“You are aware that the state requires that work performed at $35,000 requires a bid. We were only $200 under that amount. Being under the radar of the state right now, what possessed you to not use the bidding process?” she asked.

Gugino said it was very simple, saying Mainline was the low bidder on the overall project.

He said two problems developed during the relining project, one at Lake Shore Drive and Brigham Road that was done under normal contingency in the contract.

“The one you’re really asking about is the two-inch water main we replaced on Mullet from Lake Shore to Country Fair and all that,” Gugino told Kiyak.

He added the two-inch galvanized pipe was degraded to the point where it was decided by all involved the pipe wouldn’t withstand the cleaning and relining process.

“We had an option, the option was very simple. Ignore it, knowing that then we would have to fix it on our own with Fund II budget somewhere down the road, probably sooner rather than later, or do another project under the $50,000 contingency that was budgeted in the project for the unforeseens. You always have a contingency,” Gugino continued. ” … The day I got the call, the day I looked at it, I questioned the engineer from Nussbaumer’s. I said, where are we right now with the quantities of materials on the project? …. After some quick math they figured about $42,000 under what Mainline had actually spent.

“All right, so here’s a company that’s got a bid for $536,000 roughly. They’re telling you they’re at $40,000 less than that. … They’re going to get paid the $536,000 whether they do the work or not.”

Kiyak stated the $34,800 was in addition to the $536,000, but Gugino said it was not.

“The $536,000 was the original bid. They are not telling you where it was at, it was under $42,000 or $40,000. At that point it was considered work they could do within the budget,” Gugino continued, adding Mayor Anthony J. Dolce knew about the work. “My direction to the engineers and the contractor was, we are not going over budget on this project.”

Gugino said the original price from Mainline was $46,000 using copper pipes but using plastic would cost the $34,800.

“At that point we all made the agreement to go ahead and do it, as long as the project came in under the original contract,” he added.

“So you’re saying we were going to come in at 40 grand less and then you made the decision to go ahead with that additional work?” Kiyak then asked.

“Absolutely, I’m not going to pay a contractor $40,000 more than they’ve earned,” Gugino replied. “I made them earn the money to get the money.”

Kiyak replied that council is responsible for making sure the city’s procurement policy is followed and what she was told Dec. 9 was a concern.

“My first concern was what would the state think if we did not do a bidding process that should have been. A couple hundred bucks does not mean you just ignore it,” she continued. “I wanted to clarify on record what the thinking was, especially because it was replacement and we utilized a company that specializes in cleaning, not replacement. We don’t know what the bid could have been.”

Gugino said she was absolutely right but there hasn’t been one project he has overseen that didn’t have unforeseen calamities.

“That’s why we call it contingency, … to cover the things that always show up, especially when you’re digging. … You don’t need to go bid on that change order under a project in scope,” he stated. “You can semantically argue whether that waterline was in the scope of the project. Yes, because it feeds off the 12-inch main, just like all the sideline valves replaced to Point Drive North and the other side streets. If you really want to go to the point of, stop the project, contractor is here and throw him out of town and go rebid it, you can do that and watch what your prices are.”

Kiyak said that was not the intention.

“Our intention is not to stop progress on a project that’s in the midst of being done,” she added. “Our intention is to make sure that the policies and procedures are being followed while the project is being undertaken.”

After the meeting Dolce was asked if Kiyak’s concern over the Mullet Street work was warranted.

“There is contingencies built into each project. … You’re doing the cleaning and relining and it didn’t make sense to hook up to the galvanized pipe because you’re just going to cause damage to your newly cleaned and relined pipe,” he replied. “I think it was a project that was money well spent. … I think we’d be having a different conversation if you had ‘x’ amount budgeted and you went over the budget to address that problem, now you have a different situation.

“To come in under budget, or on budget, while getting some work done that needed to get done – I think that’s a win-win. The project turned out great.”

Send comments to gsnyder@observertoday.com