The Ottumwa Courier

December 1, 2012

Deadline for litigation against contractor to be extended

Housing grant could rehab 10 homes on city’s south side

Courier Staff Writer

OTTUMWA — The deadline for the city to begin litigation against a Grimes company could be extended to give the contractor time to repair faulty work on an Ottumwa street six years ago.

At its Tuesday night meeting, the Ottumwa City Council will vote to approve an agreement “tolling” — or suspending — the statute of limitations regarding the commencement of litigation against Van Hauen & Associates, Inc., of Grimes, and Merchants Bonding Company to recover for unacceptable work performed by the contractor on Phase 1 of the South Ottumwa Sanitary Sewer Separation Project.

In October, the council had approved for City Attorney Joni Keith to begin litigation against Van Hauen and its bonding company, MBC, for the work done six years ago.

In a previous interview with the Courier, Keith said Van Hauen is still in business though the company is considered to be in “reduced capacity,” which is why the city would also file suit against their bonding company.

Approximately 59 panels of the four blocks of North Sheridan Avenue from Finley Avenue to Garfield Street have settled or cracked, which city engineers believe is due to the contractor not properly compacting the ground underneath before laying the street.

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.

“Where we found a lack of effort was in compaction along the side of those boxes,” said Public Works Director Larry Seals at an October council meeting, though he said the sewer lines underneath the road have not been affected. “There are two guarantees with concrete: It’ll get hard and it’ll crack. Compaction is probably the biggest issue we have in any construction project.”

The city has given notice of a claim under the contractor’s performance bond with MBC requesting that they hire a separate contractor to remove and replace the pavement, with those costs as well as the costs for the subgrade testing to be covered by the maintenance bond.

The statute of limitations on the claim is Dec. 20, but the proposed agreement extends the statute of limitations until Nov. 30, 2013 to give the contractor time to make the repairs necessary.

It is believed that a separate agreement between the parties can be negotiated that will ensure the necessary repairs without the necessity of litigation.

Van Hauen has said a design defect led to the problem, not any work of their own.

CDBG grant could rehabilitate houses

Meanwhile, 10 homes on Ottumwa’s south side could be rehabilitated if the city receives a $380,000 grant.

A public hearing will be held for the 2013 Community Development Block Housing Sustainability Grant application.

The project would involve the rehabilitation of 10 houses on the south side of Ottumwa bounded by Richmond Avenue on the north, Ferry Street and contiguous properties on the east, Chester Avenue and contiguous properties on the south and Kettle Creek on the west, an area that contains more than 200 houses.

City planner Nick Klimek said the city has applied for the grant in the past, with the last program in 2007.

“It’s an owner-occupied housing rehabilitation program,” Klimek said. “It’s in a targeted district and it’s awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.”

The grant would require a local match of $25,000. It’s typically awarded in April, he said, and the contract would be set in May.

“We’re doing something sort of interesting with this project to make the grant application as competitive as possible,” he said. “We’re doing targeted mailing in the proposed district.”

The mailing will request that people who are interested and may qualify for the program “pre-apply.”

“That way when we show this to the state, we can say we have 15 people that are ready to go if we’re awarded,” Klimek said.

The council will also:

• Hold a public hearing for the Hamilton Street Sewer Separation Project, which calls for sewer separation and construction of a new storm sewer system in the 1000 block of Hamilton Street to Finley Avenue. The estimated cost is $160,000, which will be funded through local option sales tax. Construction is slated to start in the spring.

• Approve the Ottumwa Water Works Board of Trustees budget for 2013.

The council will meet at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in council chambers at City Hall. The meeting will air live on GO-TV, cable channel 6.