Water repair contract swells from $10 million to $19 million
A city engineer explained to the Board of Estimates today how a $10.4 million waterpipe repair contract has doubled to $19.7 million.
Rudolph S. Chow, chief of the bureau of water and wastewater, said his department had added 18 extra work orders to a waterpipe rehabilitation contract awarded to the Spiniello Co. in 2009.
Among the added tasks were emergency repairs to a 72-inch water main that broke in Dundalk in September 2009, ripping up roads and causing major damage to homeowners.
Robert L. McCarty, the city auditor, did not specifically object to the added costs, but said the bureau improperly bundled together the extra orders without seeking prior approval by the spending board.
The new work was not competitively bid, but given to Spiniello, a global pipeline repair company based in New Jersey, as part of the original contract.
The Board of Estimates approved $5,281,080 for seven of the extra work orders today. An additional $4 million is expected to be appropriated by the city before January 2012.
The expenditures were approved by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and her two appointees, Alfred H. Foxx, director of public works, and George Nilson, city solicitor.
City Comptroller Joan M. Pratt voted “no” because the work orders were not submitted to the board for prior approval. City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young abstained.
Acknowledging that the bureau’s management practices were not perfect, Chow said that “going forward, we will not bundle the [water] projects” into a single contract. Instead, the agency will better distinguish between emergency repairs, urgent needs repairs and planned roadway repairs. The final category involves fixing water and sewer lines in advance of street resurfacing and reconstruction.
Public Works Director Foxx, speaking from the Board of Estimates, also vowed to “make sure proper procedures are in place for each of the [repair] categories.”
Last month, the Board of Estimates approved a 9% hike in residential water and sewer rates to fund repairs for the city’s aging sanitary infrastructure.