The Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District approved the final engineering invoice Monday for its recent road-paving project. The invoice included $5,670 for additional inspections that arose after some residents complained about the size and uniformity of the speed humps.
“Due to the additional inspection time required for this project, the consultant exceeded the total proposal fee by 5.1 percent,” District Administrator Clete Saunier said. “The original total proposal fee was $111,802. The final actual fee was $117,471.90.”
In the project, several roads were paved with open graded emulsified mix (OGEM).
Supervisor John Ryan said he thought the level of inspections and engineering supervision in the way the contractor applied the surface and measurement of the speed humps accounted for the additional cost, which might be necessary in future projects.
Supervisor Don Widing said he would be interested in analyzing the costs to apply to future projects.
“I think this might be an opportunity for us to step back and take a look at operations from a management perspective,” Widing said. “We have a certified engineer on our staff. Would we be better served looking at how these employees are utilized for services, and are there any cost savings to be realized down the road?”
Widing said having an operations engineer on staff might save the district money. He also pointed out that the role of the district is changing in light of more paved roads and less road grading, and they might be better off to supervise the projects in-house rather than rely on consultants.
“I’m not really comfortable with the way we are applying our money from an operational standpoint, but I think there are cost savings that can be realized if we project this out three or five years,” Widing said. “At the same time, we can develop our knowledge base by not being dependent on a consultant.”
Widing added that the district needs to develop an interlocal agreement with the Town of Loxahatchee Groves for the maintenance of non-district roads, which remain largely unpaved.
“I’m not saying what we’ve done up to this point is wrong,” Widing said. “I’m saying this is a business decision, and we can do it better and more efficiently.”
Supervisor Frank Schiola asked what caused the cost overrun, and Saunier said they had originally anticipated doing one road project per year.
“That one road was about two and a half miles, and that would have been something that, based on all of my other responsibilities, I probably would have been able to meet the construction operations,” he said. “However, since it is the first time we did it, there was a learning curve, and we did do 10 miles of roads in one year. It was an extensive amount of work.”
Saunier said that about 148 hours of inspection time was allotted, which was exceeded by about 48 hours. The consultant, Erdman Anthony of Florida, also did a speed hump report.
Widing suggested that the district schedule a workshop to analyze the outcome. He also asked whether the construction design and drawings could be done in-house, but Saunier said the district does not own the necessary software.
Ryan said that with the unique situation of roads in close proximity to canals, he valued the output of an outside engineering firm to sign off on the drawings and road construction details, including the speed humps. “If we face any litigation in association with this, I think [we’re] going to be very well-served to have that professional expertise involved in the background of our decisions,” he said.
Schiola said that in light of the amount of work that the district has contracted with Erdman Anthony to do, he has a problem with the firm billing for the cost overrun.
Widing said he thought the district should pay for the cost overrun, but he was still concerned about it. He suggested that handling cost overruns be dealt with more clearly in future projects.
Widing’s motion carried 4-1, with Schiola opposed.
In other business:
• The board certified the results of the June 25 election that returned Robert Snowball to his seat for a three-year term over challenger Roy Parks.
Ryan made a motion to receive and file the independent auditor’s report certifying the election, with copies to go to the county’s supervisor of elections and Florida’s secretary of state.
Schiola asked how much the election cost, including the referendum to approve the qualified elector process. Ryan estimated it was $103,000, including legal and accountants’ costs, which led to a $13.50-per-acre special assessment last year, and about $3,000 this year.
The motion carried 5-0.
• The board also kept the same officers for the upcoming year. Ryan asked for consensus to retain Dave DeMarois as chairman, Robert Snowball as vice chairman, Ryan as secretary-treasurer and Widing as deputy secretary-treasurer.
“I’m not sure if this is the proper way to do it, but we had a pretty good year last year covering a lot of material,” Ryan said. “I would ask that everybody serve in the same capacities as they did last year.”