Strasburg: Council blasts firm on plant estimate

^ Posted Nov. 13

By Alex Bridges

Strasburg Town Council on Tuesday put an engineering firm on the spot for underestimating the cost of a wastewater treatment plant project by more than $11 million.

Representatives of Malcolm Pirnie apologized to council and admitted the firm made a mistake by not advising the town the preliminary estimate of $20 million had increased to approximately $34 million. The firm's representatives explained its staff working on the project worked over the past months to update and adjust the figures that in turn led to the higher estimate.

However, the representatives admitted that they knew of the higher estimate as of Sept. 18, but the documents got "buried under paperwork" and they failed to pass that information on to Strasburg staff as the town started to advertise for bids for the project.

Council members expressed disappointment and frustration at the apparent oversight and some questioned whether the town should maintain its relationship with Malcolm Pirnie. The town has already spent approximately $2 million on engineering work related to the project.

Malcolm Pirnie representatives indicated the firm has been in contact with the agencies responsible for providing grant funding for the project to see if they can adjust the award amounts to reflect the higher cost estimate.

Councilman Donald M. Le Vine questioned why the firm waited so late in the process to update the cost estimate.

"What it comes down to is -- I speak for myself, I can't speak for other people here -- why should we trust you in the future to do it right," Le Vine said. "It is a blunt question, but it's also the right question to ask because it all comes down to trust."

New England firm PCI submitted the lowest bid for the project at $31.4 million. After the bids were open Thursday, Town Manager Judson Rex sent a memo to council members alerting them to the fact the lowest cost came in much higher than estimated.

Since the bids were opened, Malcolm Pirnie has been in negotiations with PCI to see if the firm could reduce the cost estimate. Those negotiations likely will continue.

Prior to the discussion of the cost estimates with the firm's representatives, council voted 7-0 to approve resolutions of support for borrowing money for the project. The resolutions do not obligate the town to borrow the amounts as indicated, but as officials indicated leave the door open for when council does move forward on the project, hires the building firm and takes out the loans in the form of bonds.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or


NVD, I'd be curious to know how much the town paid these clowns to lose a 20 million dollar change in a pile of paperwork. Not that I think the town knowingly made a bad decision. I think they hired them in good faith, and got shoddy work. That can happen to anyone.

Malcolm Pirnie needs to quit making excuses and apologizing, and figure out a way to fix the problem. Or they should refund whatever they were paid.

What's going here? If Malcolm Pirnie revised the estimate from 20 million to 34 million dollars, then why do they have to negotiate with PCI which was the lowest bid at 31.4 million dollars? It looks like Malcolm Pirnie still doesn't trust their second estimate. What numbers can we trust?

Maybe they should ask Malcolm Pirnie to make up the difference?

A mistake of this size financially has me wondering if any more of there work can be trusted? Who if any were the references from backing this company's reputation and work experience with this kind of project?

I think the bigger question may be how this extra cost will be absorbed by the residents of Strasburg. It is sad to already have a water bill most months that's greater than the electric bill!!

This sounds like another increase in the water bill to me. What happened to the council being appalled by our town being the 3rd highest in the state? "We should lower it" the town council cried! But did they? No, they raised it and we never heard another word about it. I think it is ridiculas and should be an embaressment to this town that water is higher than electricity. That should be put on our welcome sign so people know what they are getting into.

Every day I think God that even though I am stuck in this corrupt Shen. Co. that at least I am not stuck in Strasburg. I pray for the day this economy improves a little bit more so I can give away my real estate and get the hell out of dodge. Better known as the good old boy 1800's mentality of Shen. Co.

Oh, dag-nabit darn it all,,, fudge and phooie... The Tea Party chickens are coming home to roost.

Think your water bill is high now? Just you wait until these arithmetic challenged Teabillies get done tinkering with it trying to use Ryan math to pay for it without raising your water bill...(golly, why does that sound so familiar??)... what is wrong with looking for a free government gift of free government money in the form of free government grants... wuh woh... now you are all socialists?

...and not one single liberal in sight to blame it all on.



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