The members of the Summit Hill Water Authority sound a little ticked off - and it sounds like they have good reason.
According to a report from their meeting, an inspection of their recently built solar field by Reading Electric revealed 13 deficiencies.
This was a project scheduled for completion by August 31, 2011. The authority has stated the solar field is operational - but that the deficiencies must be corrected. As a result, the project still isn't deemed as completed.
Authority Chairman Lou Alexander stated repairs could cost $30,000, and that an engineering firm has done $20,000 of additional work. Simple math says the project is $50,000 over budget, if these figures are accurate.
This reminds us that just a few years ago of the problem Summit Hill borough encountered with a building project. The borough constructed a new borough hall with a police station, and a new fire hall with a community center attached.
The completion of that project became far behind schedule. There were all types of flaws, some which still haven't been corrected such as the heating and air conditioning system in the fire station.
A court battle ensued regarding the HVAC work, but settlement without a trial or judge's decision was reached without all be problems being remedied.
Even when the fire station became occupied, it happened nearly a year later than scheduled.
What's going on? It's not just happening in Summit Hill. Too often we hear of projects being let out on bid, then the next thing we hear is that there are construction problems. It's usually the taxpayers who get stuck with paying for the inadequacies.
As seen in Summit Hill, even lawsuits don't solve the situations. There was a settlement with the HVAC contractor, but the fire company's HVAC system still isn't functioning properly. It's not fair to the borough, to the firefighters occupying the building, or to the taxpayers.
Had the borough not settled, though, legal fees could have become astronomical and the delays in getting the suit through the judicial system could have taken forever, with time being in the contractor's favor.
Apparently more safeguards must be placed into the bidding process for major construction projects. Without being professional contractors or engineers, we're not sure exactly what type of safeguards are needed, but it's not right the way taxpayers are being ripped off by sloppy workmanship.
One possibility is that a list be maintained of contractors who have legal actions pending with municipalities over unsolved project deficiencies. There would be a central list maintained - such as a Megan's Law List - during which municipalities can check on the worthiness of firms for bidding purposes.
As it is now, some contractors go from one project to another doing substandard work.
Contractors who bid projects have an obligation. That obligation is, if they bid on a project, to make sure they complete it and do it right.
The Summit Hill building project had many, many shortcomings when it was deemed finished by the contractors.
It sounds like the solar field project of the Summit Hill Water Authority also is not actually completed.
Regarding the list mentioned above, it's obvious there are firms which did work locally which belong on it.
There's absolutely no reason for such apparent substandard work.
By RON GOWER