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Commissioners continue to debate proposed change orders for records building

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From left, pictured are Highland County commissioners David Daniels, Brad Roades and Terry Britton. (HCP Photos/Caitlin Forsha)
Caitlin Forsha, The Highland County Press

Highland County commissioners David Daniels, Brad Roades and Terry Britton revisited previously requested change orders related to the county’s records storage building project during their Wednesday, April 17 meeting.

Plans for the new facility have been underway for close to two years, as commissioners voted in May 2022 to purchase a 0.236-acre lot on Beech Street in Hillsboro for construction of the property, which will be used to alleviate some of the storage issues seen in all county buildings. They also voted in the same month to enter the contract with McCarty Associates, LLC for engineering and architecture design services.

A bid opening was held July 12, 2023, with commissioners receiving three multimillion-dollar bids for “all necessary labor, materials, tools, machinery, warranties and all other items required to construct a new masonry two-floor 13,020 square foot building,” the bid description says. On Aug. 30, commissioners awarded the project to the low bidder, Alpha Construction Inc., who had submitted a $2,797,000 proposal.

Commissioners have approved some of the change orders for the project thus far, but in January they met with representatives from McCarty Associates, as well as county American Rescue Plan Act funding coordinator Nicole Oberrecht, to debate (and ultimately reject) some of them. Since then, commissioners have since rejected two other change order requests, both in March. 

On the agenda for discussion Wednesday was one application for payment for materials stored offsite, as well as four different potential change order requests, several of which were already denied or tabled.

“You guys have acted on these and denied them,” Oberrecht told commissioners. “I had sent that information to Alpha, and they, in turn, basically have asked that you guys revisit those decisions.”

Oberrecht said that she and Roades have also met with Alpha contractors this month, “and they really didn't present any new evidence, or additional information, to further their claim.

“We’ve advised Alpha that we would bring it back before the board to see if you guys have had, you know, a change of heart with any of these or if there's room for negotiation,” she said.

Regarding the application for payment, Daniels said the contractor has “asked for payment for the steel” stored at their “home base.

“I think we've told them that we are more than happy to pay that once the material’s on site,” he said. “We’ve gone to some effort to provide them a laydown yard to bring those materials in here.”

Oberrecht replied that the agreement between the county and contractors “says that it is permissible to store at an offsite location, provided written permission from” commissioners, but the contractors never made that request.

“There was no discussion upfront, and they were coming at us for 90 percent of the steel,” she said.

Daniels said he “wants to make sure that we’ve that got what we're paying for, and the only way we can do that is to have that material onsite at our laydown yard.

“It seems like a pretty simple thing,” he said. “I mean, they're going to have to bring it here sometime.”

Oberrecht said things are further “convoluted” by the fact that the county has received another application for payment (application No. 4) — not listed on the agenda for consideration — that they don’t want to pay “when we haven't gotten” the application for materials stored offsite” (application No. 3) settled.

“It just muddies the waters,” she said. “Your percentages that's previously paid get all out of whack.”

For the No. 3 application, Daniels said, “They can take the steel off, or bring it up here and we're happy to pay. I think that's where we're at.”

The change orders commissioners were asked to look at included one that they said they could “revisit” when they first discussed it in January. The request was for expenses incurred from being on the project an additional two weeks due to “the timeline of bad soils.

“You guys really wanted to revisit that on the final stage of the project to see if they even needed those two weeks to come into play,” Oberrecht said. “That one wasn't officially denied, just tabled.”

Daniels said “we've said we might consider that at the end of the project, so let’s leave that status quo.” 

Two of the other change orders listed for reconsideration were the ones denied in March, with one dealing with an additional footer undercut and one dealing with water line size changes.

“I’m fine with what our position’s been all along on those,” Daniels said, adding that he still wanted to deny both.

The final change order was one that commissioners had not yet reviewed, regarding a gas main. 

“It's where they hit a line that wasn't marked,” Oberrecht said. “The gas main wasn’t shown, and it was actually marked to be in the street, not on the property. There was no easement.” 

Oberrecht said that McCarty Associates had recommended reaching out to the gas utility company to see if they “are interested in absorbing that change order” because they “didn’t feel like it was Alpha’s responsibility nor the county’s.”

Daniels asked Oberrecht to speak to the utility company as well as to Alpha regarding “documentation” on the cost and length of time for repairs. 

In other discussion:

• Commissioners voted 3-0 to agree to a subordination of mortgage request from Highland County Community Action, as they met with HCCAO Housing Director Mark Current as well as Brenda Whitt of HCCAO. 

Brenda Whitt and Mark Current of Highland County Community Action.

Current — who, as pointed out by Roades, is set to retire at the end of the week — introduced commissioners to Whitt before discussing the subordination request.

“She's not new to Community Action, but she is new to the housing department,” Current said. “She'll be working with the CHIP program, doing administrative-type stuff, so you'll see more of her in the coming weeks as we’re preparing for the new application of the CHIP grant.”

Regarding the HCCAO request, Current said it is for a home that “is in its fifth year since” HCCAO performed rehabilitation work.

“Whenever we do a rehab, we put a forgiveness mortgage on the property that over a five-year period reduces by 17 percent each year, and then at the end of five years, there's 15 percent left that stays on there until it changes hands or until the property’s sold,” Current said. “This homeowner would like to refinance, and so the title company called me and asked if the balance of this mortgage could be subordinated to the bank's mortgage, just meaning it would take a backseat to that.”

Daniels asked if the homeowners had “met their obligations according to the program,” and Current said, “They have.” After that, commissioners voted unanimously to make the approval.

Current thanked commissioners for approving the request and for working with him for over a decade, as he said he’s been with HCCAO for “almost 14” years. He also formerly coordinated the county's land bank program.

“It’s been a pleasure working with you on the CHIP program, and the land bank, and all that,” he said.

• Britton and Daniels announced that commissioners, local economic development leaders and representatives from several area industries will be visiting the Ohio Statehouse April 18 to meet with legislators, as well as Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and members of his cabinet.

• Oberrecht said that she and commissioners were doing a “walkthrough” of the new Ohio State University Extension office at the Highland County Fairgrounds Wednesday afternoon.

“We’ll take a look at the interior and see what's left to get completed out there,” she said. “We’re just still going to be on hold for a little bit until the weather can get straightened up.”

In other action, commissioners made the following approvals, each by a 3-0 vote:

• A contractor’s application for payment submitted by Doll Layman, Ltd., for work on the Rocky Fork Wastewater Treatment Plant, was authorized.

“I've been attending construction meetings,” Daniels said. “They're on schedule and seem to be doing a pretty good job out there. I think that this last one [application for payment], Nicole told me, was a lot of equipment costs.”

• Commissioners authorized a quit-claim deed to transfer a property on Pine Street to the Village of Greenfield. The property was previously forfeited to the county in a drug case in Highland County Common Pleas Court. 

• A 63-month copier lease agreement with Canon Solutions America, Inc., for the Highland County Auditor’s Office was approved. (“We are upgrading the copier, but the price will stay the same,” Auditor Alex Butler told commissioners.)

• Via resolution, commissioners authorized a request from the Clerk of Courts to create the following two line items within the 1000 County General Fund: Contracts & Services and Other Expense.

• Also via, resolution, commissioners approved a budget modification within the 1000 County General Fund in the amount of $8,000.

• A CORSA (County Risk-Sharing Authority) application for surety bond was approved.

• A multi-settlement agreement and release with Otis Elevator Company was authorized. As previously reported, commissioners voted April 3 to buy out their current contract with Otis Elevator and enter a new agreement with Schindler Elevator Corporation for maintenance/repair services. The Schindler company recently completed work on the Highland County Administration Building elevator.

• Commissioners renewed an agreement with Sedgwick for unemployment compensation services, with the county’s contract fee increasing from $462 to $500.

• Commissioners accepted the resignation of kennel attendant Clarabelle Lovensheimer, who provided two weeks’ notice.

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