Haywood County commissioners grappling with the $4.4 million price tag of a landfill expansion briefly eyed the steep engineering costs as a place to trim this week.
During a county meeting, commissioners questioned the hiring of two separate engineering firms for a total of $345,000 to design and oversee landfill construction. Commissioner Kevin Ensley was the first to broach the subject, asking why the county couldn’t just hire a single engineer rather than contracting with two entire firms.
Stephen King, the director of solid waste, cited the litany of state and federal regulations involved in building a landfill, from geotechnical permits to myriad testing of soil samples by various labs.
“It is very specialized,” King said. “It will take a whole team to get done what needs to be done.”
A engineer can be the county’s best friend in a project of this caliber, serving as both as a liability shield and a taskmaster to keep the contractors on time and on budget.
“I think having a good engineer is critical,” advised Chip Killian, the county attorney.
Ensley questioned a clause in one of the contracts, however, that would bill the county $900 a day for engineering services should the project extend beyond the estimated nine-month time frame.
“If we run into a problem like with the historic courthouse and it goes on and on, that could get expensive,” Ensley said. Ensley said the bid for the job should cover the work, period.
Commissioner Mark Swanger asked whether the county attempted to negotiate the terms. It appeared not. County Attorney Chip Killian said he had not read the contracts yet and couldn’t comment on whether the language was standard or troubling.
“We really need some of these questions answered,” Commissioner Kirk Kirkpatrick said. “I would also like to know if this is the best price they can come up with. Everybody is having to give a little now. Let’s see if they can, too.”
The contracts were with Asheville-based McGill and Associates for $175,000 and a second contract with Joyce Engineering, landfill specialists based in Maryland, for an additional $170,000.
Killian worked over the two contracts following the meeting. The county was unable to lower the price but altered some of the language.
“Mostly to protect the county against anything, essentially to make sure if they don’t perform their task we aren’t liable for it,” King said of the changes.
As for the heafty $900 a day Joyce was seeking should the project run over schedule, the language was clarified so the contractor, not the county, would be responsible for paying up. Both were approved by commissioners following the rewording.