Work proceeds on the 10 Mile Road relief sewer project March 8 west of Harper Avenue.

Work proceeds on the 10 Mile Road relief sewer project March 8 west of Harper Avenue.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske

Cost of relief drain rises again in St. Clair Shores

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published March 9, 2018

ST. CLAIR SHORES — Angered at the higher costs and delays of the relief drain project on 10 Mile Road, City Council voted 5-2 in favor of a modified contract for M-K Construction because of “boulders” encountered in the soil as workers microtunneled west.

Kyle Seidel, senior project engineer with Anderson, Eckstein and Westrick, which is the engineering firm handling the project for the city, brought forward contract modifications of $304,778.22 at the March 5 City Council meeting, explaining that unforeseen soil conditions had led to the microtunneling equipment encountering sand, cobble and boulders as it pushed new pipe.

The equipment encountered obstructions in late September that prevented it from proceeding. After workers tried to tunnel again, Seidel explained, built-up friction meant that the contractor had to excavate down to remove the boulders and the drill head, as well as the tunneling machine and the damaged pipe. A new shaft had to be constructed to allow work to proceed. More than $217,000 worth of the additional money being requested was because of this incident.

In two other incidents, the contractor encountered boulders as workers were tunneling through the soil 20 feet below the surface. The tunnel runs in these incidents were able to be completed, but pushing through the stones caused wear and damage to the tunnel cutting head, which had to be repaired, and took more time. 

He said that soil borings were done every 400 feet before the project began, none of which showed any evidence of boulders. The pockets of boulders have been so small, he said, “we would not have been guaranteed to identify these if we did 25, 40 ... of these borings.”

That would have led to more upfront costs, he said, and the rocks still would have been present.

In addition to the extra money, Seidel said that the contractor was asking for an additional 127 days to be added to the project, bringing the completion date stated in the contract to Nov. 15, 2017. Per the contract, M-K Construction could be responsible for paying the city $650 per day for each day the company takes to fully complete the project after the agreed-upon completion date.

The request comes four months after City Council approved another change order for the contract, which added $183,580 to the cost of the project.

The project was originally bid at $2.4 million; with all the approved change orders, the total cost is now about $2.9 million. As of March 5, there was still about 1,000 feet of the 5,000-foot project that had not yet been completed.

Seidel said the city is holding back about $121,000 so far that it has not paid the company because of the time frame overrun. 

City Council members expressed frustration and anger at the cost overruns.

“The price is nowhere near what we thought ... we were getting into,” said Councilman Peter Rubino. “We were reassured that this was the best way to go. We were going to save money. We were going to save trees. Well, we’re not saving any money now. 

“So who’s responsible for all of this? No one’s put a price on the inconvenience to the people who live on that street or the businesses. Who’s responsible for it?”

Councilman John Caron said he was not happy, but he felt stuck having to approve the payment for fear that the contractor wouldn’t show up to finish the job if the city withheld the money. He also expressed frustration with the work of AEW on the project.

This has “been a nightmare,” Councilwoman Candice Rusie agreed. 

“That price was basically a bait-and-switch. It’s going on a whole lot longer than we thought, than the residents thought, than we signed up for. We’re paying for more money on this. We don’t know these things, but we rely upon you guys.”

Seidel defended AEW’s design of the project, however, and said that all soil conditions cannot be anticipated.

“Sometimes it’s like a needle in a haystack, but we want to find out what the general soil conditions are,” he said. “You’re always going to run into issues.”

Nevertheless, Seidel said that there will be more attention paid for the remainder of the project and that he will push the contractor to finish as soon as possible. Without further interruptions, he said that they anticipate being able to connect the pipe April 14.

“I will do everything I can for this city to complete this project with minimal interruption,” he said. 

Rubino and Rusie voted against the motion for contract changes and payment of $330,216.41, which included the more than $300,000 cost for the modifications.

Mayor Kip Walby said that he wants the city’s new engineering firm, Hubbell, Roth & Clark, on hand when the project is finished to “evaluate it and make sure that it works.”

“This is 600 homes that it was supposed to take care of,” he said. “I know we’re way over budget, but I’m worried.”