Town accepts extension on construction of new facilities
STRASBURG – Town Council members sparred before deciding to accept an extension request on the construction of new town facilities. The discussion nearly led to the removal of one councilman from the meeting.
The argument concerned an extension request from English Construction, a firm building the town’s new wastewater treatment plant and public works facility. The company requested a one-year extension on the facility and a 270-day extension on the plant, spanning from the original projected date of completion.
According to the firm’s design-build change order, both projects will be substantially completed by April 10, and completed in full by June 9.
The ire in the debate stemmed from $120,000 the town would need to move from a contingency fund to pay its third-party supervisor of the project. English Construction would cover the rest of the costs of the extension.
Councilman Seth Newman, the only councilman to vote against the extension, said the delays are the fault of the builders, and the town should not need to spend contingency funds.
According to background information provided with the change order, the firm attributed some of the delay to inclement weather, although the town disputed this claim.
Newman said the change order absolves the firm of any damages it would need to pay for the delay. However, should the firm need another extension, he said the town could still call for damages to be paid.
Assistant Town Manager and Director of Public Works Jay McKinley said a failure to extend the contract or wipe the slate clean could strain relationships.
“If we don’t provide the extension now, it does become a combative situation,” he said. “We’re still working together as a team to finish the project. It’s not done yet. If they know that we’re going to hold liquidated damages over their head from now until the end of the project, they’re going to do everything they can to not work with us.”
When Councilwoman Shirley Maddox asked what would happen if the town decided not to accept the extension, McKinley said it’s likely lawyers would need to get involved.
Councilwoman Barbara Plitt said the town is better off paying the $120,000 than bothering with lawyers.
“If things were to become contentious, it’d cost way more than the $120,000 out of the contingency fund to pay lawyers,” she said.
The discourse grew more aggressive when Bishop and Newman offered the idea of talking about the companies on social media.
Newman was the first to put forth the idea. “I guarantee we could murder them on fricken’ (sic) social media if that’s the attitude they take,” he said.
Councilwoman Kim Bishop offered the idea again later in the meeting.
“Social media is a powerful thing, and if they mess with us in the end, they might get some feedback from an unsatisfied customer,” Bishop said.
Ultimately, Mayor Rich Orndorff said social media ploys should not be threatened during council negotiations.
“I would once again caution each one of us sitting on this desk in our use of social media,” he said. “Social media is a great tool but it’s also a very dangerous tool. For us as elected officials to engage in social media when we are negotiating in town business, I do not feel is very prudent.”
At this point, a scoff from Newman incited a back-and-forth between the councilman and the mayor, which led to Orndorff threatening to remove Newman from the meeting.
In the end, Newman was the only councilman to vote against the contract extension and additional funds.
Contact staff writer Jake Zuckerman at 540-465-5137 ext. 152, or firstname.lastname@example.org.