The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

October 13, 2012

Cracking, settling found from sewer repair

City prepared to file against contractor for Sheridan Avenue street failures

OTTUMWA — The four blocks of North Sheridan Avenue from Finley Avenue to Garfield Street are a smooth ride, but city engineers say sewer work done six years ago has led to settling and cracking.

At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, council members will discuss the possibility of filing litigation against Van Hauen & Associates, Inc., of Grimes, for work done on Phase I of the South Ottumwa Sanitary Sewer Separation Project.

City Attorney Joni Keith said approximately 59 panels of the street have settled or cracked on North Sheridan Avenue, Garfield Street to Finley Avenue, an entirely residential neighborhood.

“They [Van Hauen] did the project in 2006, then after a couple of years those sections started cracking and settling, and they shouldn’t have done that,” Keith said. “There’s a difference of opinion on what needs to be repaired.”

Throughout the past year, the city and its engineer on the project, Todd Penisten from Veenstra & Kimm, have been negotiating with Van Hauen to repair the panels.

In the meantime, Keith said, Van Hauen is still in business, but they are “reduced capacity,” meaning the company “is not in business, so to speak.”

“They’re saying it’s not their fault,” Keith said. “They’re saying it was a design defect, and that’s why the panels are cracked.”

City engineers believe the contractor did not properly compact the ground underneath before laying the street.

“We had an engineer come in and do some compact testing,” Keith said. “They confirmed that that’s exactly what happened. The ground under the street was not properly compacted, which resulted in settling and cracking.”

Since the company is reduced capacity, the city has filed a claim under their bonding company, Merchants Bonding Company.

“That’s why we require performance bonds to be posted for all major work done in the city,” Keith said. “If the company goes under, we go to the bond and the bond company, who hires a contractor to re-do the work or repair the work.”

If it comes to the city suing, Keith said both Van Hauen and the bonding company would be sued.

“We may not have to file if the bonding company comes in and agrees with us,” Keith said. “We’re hoping that’s what happens.”

The council will also discuss compensation for architectural and engineering services for Market on Main.

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