Minor changes in plans cause costs to rise
By Alex Bridges -- firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- Costs to build the area's second regional jail started to rise early in the construction of the multi-million project.
The Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail Authority board at its meeting Thursday heard a report that designs for the nearly $80 million project ran afoul of some pipelines owned by Washington Gas.
Patton, Harris, Rust & Associates, performing the civil engineering for the jail, had to adjust plans for the project to compensate for gas lines on the site on U.S. 340-522 in Warren County.
Altering the plans cost an extra $11,000. The authority's owner representative, James Marstin, advised the board a project this size could run into some conflicts. Such issues can prompt a contractor to seek change orders which can result in the cost of a particular part of a project to increase.
"I guess that's a fair characterization, but you truly never really know where it's at, 'til you dig down and see it," said Marstin. "The gas line, it's not an exact science, especially something put in in the sixties."
PHR&A had to adjust the designs to compensate for gas lines buried at a shallower depth than thought. This resulted in changes to how the contractor dug near the gas lines to install culverts and other necessary features for the project. In one place, workers had to install a culvert under the pipeline, which required them to use hydraulic devices to excavate through rock, Marstin explained. Utility providers require construction elements such as drainage pipes and culverts not encroach on gas lines, according to Marstin. The consultant said he has to issue a change directive when the construction needs to go under the pipelines. The board could face delay claims should the authority not issue a change directive, Marstin said.
Representatives with the firms working on the project indicate the contractor, Howard Shockey & Sons, and Washington Gas, may share the blame for the need to change the design plans and the subsequent cost run-up. Tony Bell, with Moseley Architects, told the board the utility had given certain depth estimates to the design firm, some of which were off. Moseley also coordinated with Shockey regarding construction procedures, including the digging of pits to test the depth of the gas lines prior to any other building near the pipes. According to Bell, Shockey dug the test pits almost immediately prior to putting in the drainage culverts, which left little time to alter the design if possible. Moseley provided the information to PHR&A to avoid delay in the project.
"I'm painfully aware that our ability to coerce utilities [is] nonexistent," said John McCarthy, county administrator for Rappahannock County. "But it strikes me from the narrative that we're in this spot because the test pits ... weren't dug until just before we basically had to deal with the crossing, and was Shockey under no obligation to have done that a little bit sooner so we'd have a little more advance of a problem when we had it?"
"Actually, contract documents say the test pits were supposed to be dug as the first step of construction," said Ron Mislowski, of PHR&A.
Bell acknowledged it appeared Shockey had proceeded 45 to 60 days into the project before digging the test pits.
However, officials agreed the board couldn't know how much of a difference in the added cost earlier notice would have made.
Warren County Supervisor Dan Murray asked whether the authority could ask Shockey to share in the cost. Bell said they could try to see if Shockey would contribute to the cost.
McCarthy suggested the authority pass along a message to Shockey.
"We think they contributed to the severity of the problem that we had to deal with and we need to not have them make these kind of choices in the future," McCarthy said.