Bell questions increase in cost of city sewer project New storm drain goes over budget by $161,000

September 17, 1998|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

Call it pay dirt.

Yesterday, the city paid an Owings Mills contractor $161,000 more than originally planned on a sewer project that required an extra 2,700 cubic yards of fill dirt.

Increasingly frustrated at having to approve the extra payments for public works contracts, city officials said they plan to explore whether such contracts can contain clauses to limit surprise costs.

The issue was raised yesterday at the city's Board of Estimates meeting, after City Council President Lawrence A. Bell III again questioned a payment. Bell's were the latest in a series of recent queries into extra work orders from the Public Works Department.

Though representatives of the city's Public Works Department defended the contractors and spending, the city's Department of Audits said it would explore placing a ceiling on the amount of emergency increases permitted as part of city contracts.

Angelozzi Bros. Inc. won the contract last year to replace a storm drain on Virginia Avenue, near Reisterstown Road, for $651,073, $15,000 lower than the closest competitor's bid. The company provided the dirt based on orders from public works supervisors, they said.

"They say we put it in, we put it in," Frank Angelozzi said after being contacted at his office yesterday about Bell's concerns.

The contract estimates required contractors to assess the costs of 50 different items, including curbs, asphalt and sewer lines. The company bid lower than the competitors in most of the items, allowing them to win the bid, Angelozzi said.

More dirt needed

Angelozzi bid the highest of four competitors on fill dirt because his company had to bring the dirt from Anne Arundel County, he said.

Despite preliminary underground bore tests by the city's consulting engineers on the storm drain area, the project required a larger amount of dirt to be used, after workers opened the 75-year-old street and discovered damaged soil. The cost increase amounted to a 25 percent increase.

Business' 'ESP'

"It's almost as if they had ESP from a business standpoint," Bell said. "I'd like to invite Angelozzi Bros. to the racetrack."

Bell's questioning of the work angered Angelozzi, who said his company has saved the city $250,000 to $500,000 on other projects.

City engineers told Bell they had no way of determining the need for the extra soil before opening the street. Public Works Director George G. Balog defended this and past public works allocations, noting that the city is unable to anticipate emergencies in construction projects.

Balog notes that last year the city paid about 10 percent more than anticipated contract costs. Governments traditionally try to keep the extra costs under 15 percent to 20 percent.

Pub Date: 9/17/98

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