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At the March 18 Board of Supervisors meeting, CAO Teri Daly and Assistant CAO Kim Kerr placed on the consent calendar a very large, contentious item to finish and sweep under the rug which is known as the Meyers Landfill project blunder, which has $6 million in construction cost overruns. This is a prime example of government contracting gone wild, as well as bad.
Apparently the original Sukut Construction contract in 2010 was for only $2.6 million. Much of the cost overruns can be attributed to changed designs, startup and shutdown costs for a project originally anticipated to take just one year, but has actually taken over three years. Over $25 million dollars have been budgeted according to the county’s budget documents and a reported $13 million in construction costs have been spent, with nearly $6 million in extra change orders, according to the March 25 Sukut Bid Schedule Change Order Summary.
There are 38 Authorized Change Orders totaling $5,885,073.68 for extra work approved by the county CAO’s office. We can only assume the county spent the other $12 million on several consultants and fancy attorney’s fees defending itself in court. The U.S. Forest Service original engineers’ estimate for the project was $5.5 million; however, “given the current bidding climate, it is highly likely that the bids will come in below that amount,” Supervisor Norma Santiago told a Tahoe newspaper in 2010.
Also according to the Lake Tahoe News in December, the total construction bill has come in at double, or $13 million. Ed Knapp, the county’s Chief Legal Counsel, blames the problem on the county following the USFS’ woefully inadequate plans; however, shouldn’t the county have known after reviewing the USFS plans that they were inadequate?
The county had previous experience in the 1990s closing the Union Mine Dump. The county should have done its own assessment of the USFS plans, performed value engineering, consulted construction experts and looked for fatal flaws before blindly committing itself to the Forest Service’s plans.
These mistakes and huge cost overruns can be attributed to gross county mismanagement and the buck stops at the CAO’s office. These garbage dump clay cap systems are not that elaborate or complex designs, they are done all the time and basically consist of importing clay soil and placing it on top of the dump site with geosynthetic mat reinforcement known as “geogrids,” a gas-piped collection system and the various drainage and erosion control measures. The material underneath is decomposing and producing methane gas which has to be collected and vented from pipes.
How did such a typical project that is done in every county of California mushroom into a $6 million budget overrun? Complete county incompetence, gross mismanagement, inexperience, poor foresight and lack of accountability. Meanwhile, the owner of Sukut Construction, California’s largest grading contractor, who performed the work on behalf of the county, has been busy building an estimated $15 million mansion for himself in Orange County on the ocean in Dana Point. Thank you, EDC taxpayers.