Water meters' cost overrun reduced to 3%

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

PETERSBURG - The town's consulting engineer is pursuing questions about a $300 invoice submitted by a utility contractor for work on private property several weeks ago.

Meanwhile, the engineer, Kim Eakes of Griggs & Maloney in Murfreesboro has explained how a potential cost overrun of some 12 percent has been limited to no more than three percent.

Both issues were discussed at this month's regularly scheduled meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen when then-Mayor John Cowden explained that a woman's home water service failed while her husband was away and unavailable.

Hopkins & Price of Wartrace filed the $300 bill for work done on the woman's property where her son used his back hoe to dig a trench and Cowden helped with a shovel and pipe fixtures, according to public discussion noted by Eakes.

Eakes hadn't received a second response from the Wartrace-based contractor as of Friday afternoon. She said her associate there had to consult with management.

Normally, municipal officials are reluctant to have their crews or contractors work on private property. The issue here, however, includes the then-mayor's volunteer time, tools and fixtures as well as a consultant helping a woman regain water service after her service pipe was found to be disintegrating.

Furthermore, Eakes was uncertain whether the leak developed after the contractor installed a new water meter at he woman's home.

Petersburg received a $94,000 state grant in December 2007 from Gov. Phil Bredesen during a ceremony in Fayetteville. The town is matching the grant with $6,000 to have $100,000 for new meters, to find leaks and make repairs.

"Everybody involved has worked to maximize the grant money," Eakes said.

As the project was started a number of water meters were purchased, but it's now been realized that too many were purchased.

"Alderman Philip McMillian recommended to send back the un-used meters," the consulting engineer said. "But they must be returned in boxes of six, therefore we're to send back 12."

The value of those 12 meters frees money for cost overruns associated with installation of meters, she said. Still, there were costs that exceeded the original cost as contracted.

In conjunction with that, she continued, "The contractor has been able to work and negotiate prices, and the town recorder has been able to get information from the Tennessee Municipal League on management and scope of work changes."

Changes are a result of collapsed meter boxes, broken pipes and other issues that have made meter replacement difficult, she said.

"Originally," Eakes said, "the plan was to replace all residential meters, but that was changed to add commercial and institutional meters for schools and churches.'

Such changes increased the cost of the $100,000 project by $12,000, Eakes estimated.

"But because of Phillip's (McMllian's) suggestion to return some meters and negotiate with the contractor, we got that down to about $2,000 to $3,000 out of a total of $79,000," Eakes said.

The difference between the $79,000 and the $100,000 available for the project includes work for environmental reviews, grant administration costs for the South Central Development District, the engineer said. Other costs include work inspectors.

Eakes' estimates show that the project will take advantage of all the grant matching funds at a modest increase in town spending.

She anticipates another report to the board at its April 13 meeting in Town Hall.