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Township reluctant to pay additional engineering bridge fee

Published April 03. 2013 05:01PM

Tensions between the township engineer and the West Penn Township board of supervisors grew during last evening's monthly meeting at the municipal building when supervisors became reluctant to pay Rettew Engineering $14,671.08 for additional expenses to fix Barry Road Bridge.

The board claims the design plans for the project were not carried out as they were supposed to be, which resulted in a bridge being built that didn't meet code. By the time the engineer inspected it, the missteps were already made that cost taxpayers the extra money.

Vice Chairman James Akins said the problem was what the shop drawings showed and what was believed to be accepted in the bid by Hazelton Site Contractors were two different things. "I don't know how that slipped through the cracks," he said. "Somebody dropped the ball there."

FEMA estimated the cost to repair the bridge to be around $400,000, but the township, according to Madison, came in around $60,000 under budget. The additional expenses for Rettew should be eligible for FEMA reimbursement; however, the issue was spending money that didn't need to be spent because there was lack of communication, not that it was money the township would get back.

"Sounds like Hazelton [Site Contractors] contradicted how much time was actually spent on some items," Akins said. "The frustrating part is did you guys do some extra work? Yes. Was the extra work required? Yes. I can't put a dollar value on it. $14,000, for me, is a little bit higher than I think we expected. I'm not accusing anyone of fudging numbers or of doing anything improper. I just wasn't comfortable with that dollar amount. I'm sure you guys need to be compensated for the work that you've done. I could be convinced to learn a lesson here and pay the bill and move forward, but I'm not going to make the motion to do such."

Township Engineer Ronald B. Madison, PE responded, "To be clear, you recognize that Rettew did additional work. You recognize that Rettew provided the justification of all our invoices when our work was done, and you're denying payment to Rettew for services rendered on behalf of the township?" Silence across the board.

"Understood," Madison said, clearing his throat and shuffling paper into his folder.

After nearly half an hour of discussing the issue, though, Supervisor James G. Dean made a motion, which was seconded by Akins, to pay the extra expenses requested by Rettew, but before doing so added, "In the future, I want to know when someone is going to make a change to something and how much that's going to cost."

Next, the Dunn family has a meeting scheduled for Monday, April 8 with Township Solicitor Gretchen Sterns, who was not at the meeting to provide comment, to move on with resolving the litigation matter regarding zoning ordinance violations at their farmers market located at the intersection of state routes 309 and 443 in South Tamaqua.

During January's supervisors meeting, Sterns said that supervisors "reviewed additional options for them with respect to insuring that in the upcoming year the ongoing violations that the zoning hearing board noted would not continue." Until zoning issues and appeals are settled and permits are applied for, supervisors have asked that the Dunn's site not be used.

Last evening at the meeting, the board reviewed a letter that was recently submitted by the Dunn family stating that their business would remain closed until all legal issues are resolved.

Lastly, Chief Brian Johnson Officer presented Officer Jason Lorah and Officer Melissa Boyer with new badges, promoting them both to the level of sergeant.

The next West Penn Township board of supervisors meeting will be on Monday, May 6 at 7 p.m. in the municipal building.

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