The Elizabethtown Borough Council voted 5-1 to approve a change order that could add up to $165,730 to the cost of the public works garage construction project after most council members said they thought delaying the project would cost even more.
“Somebody messed up and nobody’s telling me who it is,” said Council President Marc Hershey, who cast the lone vote against the change order at the Borough Council’s work session on Thursday, March 7. Hershey said the cost should be covered by somebody’s errors and omissions insurance.
Mark Binkley and Greg Holland of Fidevia Construction Management & Consulting briefed councilors on the need for a change order. Holland, the structural engineer, said the initial plan had been to use cast-in-place concrete walls for the storage shed, but that was changed to precast walls to save money. The pre-engineered building manufacturer then backed out of the process after learning about the change, he said. Borough Public Works Director Jeff Kinsey said several options were considered and the change order was probably the best way to go. Binkley said not agreeing to the change order would delay the project and the delay would likely be more expensive to the borough.
“Obviously, the roof can’t happen until the walls are there,” Binkley said, explaining the delay that would happen without the change order. He said if the borough does not grant the change order, the contractor will likely work on other projects.
Binkley noted that $165,730 is the maximum cost of the change order and that he would aim to get the work to cost less than that.
Councilor Bill Troutman, who is familiar with construction plans from his work as an electrician, noted that the change order is a 5 percent increase in the cost of the project, which is well under the 10 to 25 percent contingency usually planned for. He said if the borough does not grant the change order, it will get a reputation among contractors as a difficult client and that will mean contractors will likely add to their bid prices on future borough projects as a result. Other councilors besides Hershey agreed that the change order was the best option.
The public works building is being built on a lot behind the Santander Bank building on South Market Street. It is to replace the current building on Plum Street that was once a car dealership; that building is in poor shape and is not large enough to store public works vehicles indoors. Having them parked outdoors reduces the useful life of the vehicles.
In other business, councilors discussed extending a property tax abatement program for dilapidated properties. The Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance program, more commonly known by the acronym LERTA, allows a property owner to improve a property and pay only the taxes that would be due on the property before its improvement the first year, then have the taxes on the increased value phased in over a 10-year period. Three properties including the Moose Lodge building are currently eligible for LERTA, but that will expire in May. The borough, the Elizabethtown Area School District and Lancaster County will all have to agree to a new LERTA program for those properties to be eligible for the program beyond May. Borough Manager Roni Ryan said if a new ordinance is passed by April, that could prevent the program from having a gap.