County officials argue over change order
by Joe Baker
Jan 19, 2012 | 1071 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Demolition work continues with the removal of the wings of the Karnes County courthouse as the Phase 1 courthouse restoration project continues. County officials opted against approving a change order that would have increased the total cost of the project by about $25,000.
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KARNES CITY – County officials discussed whether or not to approve a change order to the Phase 1 courthouse restoration project during the Jan. 10 meeting of Commissioners Court.

The item, which was placed on the agenda by County Commissioner Carl Hummel, sought the approval of an additional $25,153.88, bringing the total cost of the project to $797,153.88.

Hummel said the increase was necessary because the contractor was anticipating additional project costs as a result of the delayed start date of the project.

“It amounts to about three percent,” Hummel said, “which is right in line with the inflation rate.”

“I think it is quite reasonable,” Hummel said. “We delayed the project a year, and he was waiting and waiting and waiting... the cost of materials and whatnot has gone up.”

County Judge Barbara Shaw said that she didn’t feel the county was responsible for the delays.

“This says that this is a change order and to me a change order would mean something would be different, that there would be change,” Shaw said. “This is an increase of contract without change.”

Commissioner James Rosales said that he understood the contract amount would be honored, even with the delay.

“Didn’t we talk to them and they said it was fine, that they would go ahead and wait at the same amount?” Rosales said.

“They did,” said Shaw. “They said in here that the contract amount would not increase because actually Mr. Busselman asked them if they wanted to rebid and they said it wasn’t necessary because there was not going to be an increase.”

County Attorney Robert Busselman told the court that statutes would not allow the court to approve such a change order.

“What you are doing here is you are subsidizing the contractor,” Busselman said. “They are asking you to raise their contract bid because they are going to lose money.”

Sue Carter, representing the Karnes County Historical Commission, responded to the question about what was the “change” in the change order.

“What has changed, specifically, is the start date,” Carter said. “The original start date was scheduled for March 10, 2010, and they actually began in November of 2011 with our motion to proceed.”

Carter explained that the contractor for the project, M.J. Boyle, canvassed his subcontractors to find out if there would be increased material costs. Six of the subcontractors reported that there would be a slight increase in costs.

“A very slight increase of $25,000 is very reasonable,” Carter said. “I see that our contractor, M.J. Boyle has been more than reasonable and accommodating to us. If we were to go out and rebid this, the cost would be much higher than $25,000.”

“Not necessarily,” County Attorney Robert Busselman responded.

Commissioner Pete Jauer said that he went before Commissioners Court before he was elected and told the court that they were being premature by signing the contract.

“They signed the contract anyway,” Jauer said. “They knew that they couldn’t start and get it done in time, but they signed that contract.”

The county attorney reiterated that the contractor would need to “bite the bullet” and swallow any losses that may occur as a result of the delay.

Commissioner Hummel, pointing to Busselman, Jauer and Shaw said, “You and you and you have been against this project since the very beginning.”

Commissioner Jauer said that copper was among the materials needed for the project and the cost of copper has come down in recent months.

“Pete, how do you know they haven’t already bought the copper when they got the contract?” Hummel said.

“Then they are really being a crook,” Busselman interjected.

“You are making a lot of accusations against the contractor and you don’t know anything about it,” Hummel said.

Sue Carter expressed concerns that if the county did not approve the change order, it may jeopardize the completion of the Phase 1 project.

The county judge said she felt this was just an attempt by the contractor to get more money out of the county.

“You don’t mind spending money suing the county treasurer,” Hummel said to Busselman.

“You’re out of line,” Busselman said.

“You’re out of line, commissioner,” Shaw said. “I feel like this change order is wrong and our legal counsel is telling us that it is probably illegal.”

“You call that legal counsel?” Hummel said.

“You have no right, commissioner,” Shaw responded. “He does not sit here and do that to you. You have no right.”

Shaw made a motion to disapprove the change order.

Commissioner James Rosales seconded the motion based on the contractor’s expressed commitment to the original contract amount, even with the delay.

The motion passed on a 4-1 vote with all voting in favor except Hummel who voted against the motion.

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