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Contractor to replace 50 connections

Monday, July 23, 2012

A crew works to repair the latest in a spree of leaks on the Southwest Sewer District's two-inch main, at the intersection of Mallard and Pheasant Avenues. / Photo by Ashley Miller
Following two closed, heated meetings with Lessard Contracting of Sioux City, Southwest Shoreline Sanitary Sewer District trustees unanimously accepted a proposal to have 50 connections on the four-inch main replaced at the contractor's expense.

So far, eight out the 50 connections have failed since June on the four-inch main servicing homes in Casino Beach and Stoney Point.

During a Wednesday afternoon trustee meeting, district lawyer Dave Jennett said repairs should start within the next two weeks, contingent upon paying $245,000, money the district already owes for construction. District engineer Neal Kuehl said the I&S Group will provide supervision for repairs at no additional cost.

According to a letter sent to trustees on July 16, total cost for labor and equipment is $71,000.

"Up to this point, the board and the engineer have been very fair and reasonable to deal with, but now the board expects Lessard Contracting, Inc. (LCI) to replace 50 connections for free, even though they are not leaking," the letter stated.

With the contractor having the equipment ready to go for repairs, declaring the project in default and beginning the legal process is not a good idea, Jennett said.

However, the district does have the ability to claim the project in default for up to two years, but it could potentially push repairs back.

"The contractor could pull of the job, but that would be a bad decision," Jennett said, adding the bond company would then only have broken portions of the system repaired. "We don't want to play Russian roulette."

So far, the district has been successful in maintaining an amicable relationship with contractor Bob Lessard.

"I think he has been cooperative and humble," Kuehl said.

Jennett cautioned trustees are not releasing Lessard Contracting from any liability by accepting the proposal, and are conducting an ongoing investigation of the new system. "After we get this done, we have other things for him to look at," he said, noting district engineers have a three-page punch list of additional repairs to be completed at the contractor's expense.

District resident Jason Dierking voiced he was not in favor of the "Band-Aid" solution, and again asked trustees to consider replacement of the entire system. "The time to do it is right now," he said. "I want to go around town and be able to hold my head high, but we are dumping sewage on the ground next to the lake. It's embarrassing."

Having lawsuits to replace the entire system, halting the repair process, versus continuing a good relationship with the contractor and having him fix problems at his expense is something trustees considered.

"We voted why we did because we know the legal ramifications of this scenario," said trustee Steve Anderson. "We think we have been doing all we can for the best outcome for the district at no cost."

The district is trying to get everything fixed as soon as possible, added trustee Harry Schaller.

District engineers have been successful in extending the system's warranty through August 2013. Prior to its expiration, a walk-through will take place to ensure no additional problems remain.

Several homeowners voiced concern about the DNR pulling the district's permit and shutting down the now-problematic system. In response, Schaller said the district has been in conversation with DNR representatives, who said they were concerned about the breaks.

According to Schaller, tension begins if problems are ignored, but as long as issues are fixed immediately, the DNR will continue its approval of the system.

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