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Commissioners, McCarty Associates staff discuss records storage building construction

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Pictured (l-r) are Highland County commissioners David Daniels, Brad Roades and Terry Britton. (HCP Photos/Caitlin Forsha)
Caitlin Forsha, The Highland County Press

In an hourlong afternoon session Wednesday, Jan. 31, Highland County commissioners David Daniels, Brad Roades and Terry Britton met with representatives from McCarty Associates to discuss updates, and some issues, with the county’s records storage building project. 

Director of Architectural Services Doug Karnes, Lead Project Engineer Cody Beucler, Project Architect Dallas Puckett and Director of MEP Engineering Matt Binder, all of McCarty Associates, attended the meeting. Also present was the county’s American Rescue Plan Act funding coordinator, Nicole Oberrecht.

Plans for the new facility have been underway for over a year and a half, 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 a few change orders for the project thus far, and listed on their agenda Wednesday was one encompassing three of those changes as well as an additional one for consideration. Those changes included for a fire alarm, dehumidifier upgrade, a roofing change and “continued bad soil,” the agenda said.
Daniels said he wanted to hear the “justification” for an additional $8,381 proposed change, as well as for another issue that Karnes had called to discuss.

Puckett said that the $8,381 additional charge was submitted by the contractor as “an additional fee for overhead and equipment for be remaining on site” another two weeks due to “the timeline of bad soils.” 

“We're looking to you to tell us, is this something that is something that is a valid request? Is it not?” Daniels asked. “We're kind of getting into this area where I think it's a fair thing to say that it seems like every time that we hang the phone up, we've got another request coming in. Some of them we’re obviously not agreeing with, so where are we with this one?”

The McCarty group said that the timeline being extended is a legitimate concern, but that there was inclement weather during that time frame that impacted the schedule, not just the soil.  

“It’s hard to argue about weather days,” Karnes said. “We can even tell them that we'll see how it goes. If you incur this problem, then we'll delay it. This is speculation that they're going to be on the job two weeks longer because of that.”

“So they have not incurred these costs yet?” Daniels asked. 

“They have not,” Karnes said. “That’s why I say we delay it. We're not giving them a change order something they haven't done yet.” 

He added that they can “strike it” from the proposed change order.

“We’ll revisit this, if and when,” Daniels said.

Commissioners voted 3-0 to approve the change order with certain provisions stricken.

“There's three changes to the contract totaling $35,655.21, which brings the contract amount to $2,894,697.82,” Oberrecht said of the change order. “There were also some additional calendar days added, so the new substantial completion date would be November 2.”

Along with the change order, Roades asked for an update on an issue with the concrete subcontractor. 

“They're going down to what would have been the depth of the concrete foundations, the footings, and they're finding that the soil that they're hitting is not capable of the strength that they need to have,” Karnes said. “They're saying for every cubic yard that they pull out of there, it's an amount of money —$302 — and they're up to 50 cubic yards. 

“The contractor for the concrete said ‘before I keep going, I want to make sure someone's going to compensate us for this digging deeper we didn't plan on and more concrete.’”

Karnes said first the subcontractor wanted approval on “the fact he could charge something,” to which Karnes’ response was “How can you ask for an approval on something you haven't even done and don’t know if you’re going to have that expense?” 

A few days later, he said the contractor quoted them the price per cubic yard and said the company wouldn’t “do any more until” they knew they’d be reimbursed.

One issue with this, Karnes said, is that “the county doesn’t have a contract with” the subcontractor and that the project contractor is who needs to “approve their payment” and then do a change order with the county. The contractor is also arguing that the county “didn’t give them enough information to put it in” their quote, while Karnes maintains they did.

“What I instructed them to do last night was don't stop, don't stop working,” Karnes said. “If it's going to be $45,000 on a $3 million project, don't stop working to shut down a whole $3 million project because of something you may or may not have.

“But somewhere down the road, they're going to push us to say yes or no to this.”

In response to a question from Daniels, Karnes clarified this “isn't a change order. It's just an approval that you're going to consider this cost at the end so they can keep working because what they don't want to do is keep doing all this, the concrete guy says, and we get to the end, and nobody's going to pay him.

“Now, are they hitting crappy soil? Yes,” Karnes added. “They're not fabricating that.” 

Daniels said they would “probably” consider hearing the subcontractors’ request, “but I'm not saying that we'll do it, either,” until they can verify “it is a valid expense.”

“Today was just a communication of what the actual situation is, what they're asking for, but it's not an official change order because the work is not complete,” Karnes said. “We don't have all the documentation, and it's just ongoing. I don't think there's anything for us to present to you other than what they're asking for eventually is to cover the things they're finding that they say they didn't know were going to happen.

“There may be some things on the building — I'm talking about big picture — that we might consider changing or removing that might reduce some cost to offset the site situation if we end up having to pay more for that.”

Karnes added, “I only mentioned that because the site is being very difficult for us, just for whatever reason.”

Roades said “it seems like every time we get something fixed,” another issue arises. “The worst part about it is you get a phone call, saying ‘you’ve got to give me a decision or else or pull it off,’” he said.

Daniels pointed out as well that “in order for us to make a decision, we have to be sitting here in session.”

Karnes said they have told the crews to “stop” calling and threatening to pull off the site.

“This site thing is just killing us, and it’s very frustrating,” Karnes said.

For more from Wednesday's meeting, go to:….

McCarty Associates staff members (top, l-r) Cody Beucler and Doug Karnes and (bottom, l-r) Matt Binder and Dallas Puckett are pictured during the Jan. 31 commission meeting.

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