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Environmentby Mark Reutter1:55 pmFeb 27, 20130

Inside City Hall: How an EWO grew by 4,285%

Board also approves $4 million-plus in consulting contracts and $2.5 million for EBDI.

Above: Traffic backs up on the Jones Falls Expressway last year for sinkhole repairs whose full financial effect is coming due now.

Two months ago, the Board of Estimates approved a final EWO (Extra Work Order) for emergency repairs on the Jones Falls Expressway, where a sinkhole caused by collapsed drain pipes had closed two lanes at 29th Street last spring.

The price tag of the EWO – $4,729 on a $1.99 million job – was sufficiently modest to warrant no mention on this website when the item went before the spending board on December 12.

At this morning’s meeting, however, the panel rescinded the EWO – an unusual step, taken without discussion – and ratified a new EWO for $202,608.55.

That’s a 4,285% (nearly 43-fold) increase from the original overrun, so we wondered what accounted for the difference.

The contractor, John Brawner of Cockeysville, did not wish to publicly comment on the matter, a spokesman saying “we submitted all the information to the city.”

So we contacted Frank Murphy, acting director of the city Department of Transportation, who said this: “The initial accounting of the difference of the overruns and underruns was $4,700, but that did not account for three bid items – Class 2 Excavation, Excavation Support and Temporary Traffic Signing. The overrun of the three items was approximately $200,000.”

Here’s the Background

When the sinkhole appeared last winter, causing a small dip in the lanes nearest to the median strip, DOT closed the lanes, and Murphy said the repairs “could cost up to $1 million.”

The agency sought bids from four “pre-qualified” contractors. One company – Howard T. Baker – was found to have an expired qualification, and two others – Potts & Callahan and Cianbro – declined to bid on the project.

That left Brawner as the only bidder when the board approved, at DOT’s recommendation, the emergency award of $1,997,975.

The agency accepted the contractor’s price based on information “we had prior to the excavation,” Murphy said, but “the full extent of required work couldn’t be known until the excavation revealed what the subsurface conditions truly were.”

Murphy said that when Brawner dug down to reach the damaged pipes, one buried 21 feet under I-83, there were unanticipated problems. About 70% of the cost overrun approved today was for additional excavation, 25% for shoring up the excavation site and the balance was for additional traffic signing.

The board – comprised of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, City Comptroller Joan Pratt and two appointed officials – unanimously approved the expenditure in a voice vote.

The city will partly pay for the EWO by withdrawing funds from a neighborhood streets construction reserve fund.

$4 Million in Consulting Contracts

Also by voice vote without discussion, the board approved a long list of consulting contracts.

Rummel, Klepper & Kahl (RK&K) led the list with more than $1.7 million in contracts, followed by Johnson, Mirmiran & Thompson’s pick up of nearly $1.4 million. The highlights:

up to $2 million jointly to RK&K and Johnson, Mirmiran & Thompson to provide bridge-design services over three years to the city Department of Transportation. “The consultant will assist the Engineering and Construction Division by providing bridge design services including, but not limited to bridge inspections, attending meetings, plans, specifications and cost estimates,” according to the board’s agenda.

$850,179, in six separately issued contracts, to RK&K to supply inspection and other services to the Bureau of Water and Wastewater. The largest contract calls for management oversight of sewer improvements along Stony Run, a tributary of the Jones Falls, and water meter installation in Northwest Baltimore.

$399,302 to Johnson, Mirmiran & Thompson for on-call services for the Bureau of Water and Wastewater. The engineer will prepare contract documents, cost estimates, permit applications and arrange community meetings pertaining to the replacement of obsolete water mains along Falls Road in North Baltimore.

$438,084 to Dewberry & Davis for construction-related services for “small water main replacements” along Keswick Road, Mohawk Avenue, West Forest Park Avenue and the Carver Vo-Tech High School area.

$333,403 to STV Inc. for design services to DOT for planned intersection improvements at Falls Road and Northern Parkway, Liberty Heights and Rogers avenues, Frankford and Corse avenues, and Frankford and Hamilton avenues.

$278,072 to URS Corp. to monitor the overhaul of the city’s 158 speed and red-light cameras, several of which have recorded erroneous speed readings. Among other duties, URS will prepare monthly progress reports.

$188,369 to CC Johnson & Maholtra to provide continuing services for the McComas Street Pumping Station. Among its services: maintaining a status log, monitoring testing requirements, responding to requests for information and preparing operation and maintenance manuals.

$127,663 to EMA Inc. to complete Phase 1 of the city’s new water and sewage billing systems by evaluating vendor technologies and drafting a request for qualifications by potential bidders.

Funds for EBDI and McElderry Park

The board also awarded $2.5 million in federal Community Development Block Grant Funds to East Baltimore Development Inc. (EBDI) to demolish mostly residential buildings north and east of Johns Hopkins Medical Center. (The controversial renewal project is described in a new book reviewed by The Brew.)

The funds will meet the required match of $2.5 million approved by the Maryland General Assembly  in 2011 for demolition purposes by EBDI.

The board also approved a $938,773 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice to improve community safety in the McElderry Park section of East Baltimore.

The grant will be used “as a part of a broader strategy to enhance neighborhood revitalization through cross-sector community-based partnerships,” according to the board’s agenda, with the ultimate goal of reducing juvenile violence and “to find alternatives to criminal activity for the residents of McElderry Park.”

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