November 3, 2020
By: Dwayne Page
Construction has resumed on the new Smithville Police Department building.
City leaders and the contractor have agreed to split the cost on removal and replacement of unsuitable soils. The estimated cost is $100,000 but the city’s portion will be no more than $50,000. If the actual cost exceeds $100,000 the contractor, Boyce Ballard Construction of Murfreesboro, has agreed to pay their $50,000 share plus any amount above that.
Construction recently ground to a halt only weeks after groundbreaking when areas of unsuitable soils were discovered on the site. In some places, the ground was too soft to proceed.
The question was who should address the soil problem, the city or the contractor?
Each side had said it was the other’s responsibility but over the last week they kept the lines of communication open hoping to reach an agreement.
During Monday night’s regular monthly meeting, Mike Ballard, the contractor, offered to split the cost with the city if the mayor and aldermen would agree.
“It was our interpretation that the unit price was to be used for paying for the unsuitable soils and we bid accordingly. We interpreted that the unit price was to be used that way. I am coming to you tonight because we want to move on with the project and the city is anxious to move on with the project. If it is acceptable to the council, we would like to split it down the middle with a maximum amount for the city to be half the estimated quantity at what we estimate to be $100,000. The city’s part would be only $50,000. We will take care of anything that goes over that amount,” said Ballard.
Mayor Josh Miller asked the city’s architect, Wayne Oakley of Studio Oakley Architects of Lebanon what would be the city’s next move should the aldermen not accept Ballard’s offer.
“The first step would be to terminate the contract. There would have to be just cause for that. It would possibly have to go to some mediation to decide if the contract was duly warranted to be terminated and or what payments would be due to Boyce Ballard at that time. There would be significant time delays of possibly 4-6 months and there would be legal costs. They way the contract is defined they (contractor) would be due certain dollars above what they have actually completed out here so there would be some additional monies required by the city,” said Oakley.
Last week City Attorney Vester Parsley and Oakley recommended that the city hold the contractor responsible and not bear any extra costs for addressing the soil issue but during Monday night’s meeting Parsley said splitting the costs with the contractor would be the least expensive solution for the city as long as such an agreement is signed by all the parties.
“I think we have a good basis to fight it (in court) but sometimes you have to look at the time lost and money spent to fight it because time could be months. This may be a good resolution,” said Parsley.
Oakley added that if the city were to terminate the contract with Boyce Ballard and rebid the project it probably wouldn’t be any cheaper since the costs of building materials is on the rise and the expense for removal and replacement of the unsuitable soils would be included in the new contractor’s bid amount.
Alderman Danny Washer made a motion to accept Ballard’s offer in writing to split the cost up to $50,000 for the city’s part. Alderman Shawn Jacobs offered a second to the motion. Aldermen Jessica Higgins and Beth Chandler voted with Washer and Jacobs. Alderman Brandon Cox was absent. Chandler was also absent but participated in the meeting via conference call.
Boyce Ballard’s actual bid for construction of the police department building is $2,395,000 but the city issued up to $2.5 million in bonds for the project which will cover the extra $50,000 costs to the city.
After the vote, Ballard said “we are ready to go to work”. Construction resumed this morning (Tuesday).