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Idaho Street Project Plagues City Council Into 2023

On Wednesday, January 4, Dillon City Council kicked off the new year with their first 2023 meeting. However, numerous problems from prior years continued to plague the council, the biggest of which being ongoing problems with the Idaho Street water project.

Business owner Ron Carroll presented his report on the negative impact the construction had on his and other Idaho Street businesses, particularly those located on Idaho Street between Center and Bannack Street. That portion of Idaho Street was barricaded with road closure signs for an excess of 22 weeks. He reiterated that these businesses rely heavily on tourists, especially during the summer season when construction was at its peak. The impact it had on the businesses was devastating, resulting in severe financial loss.

Carroll requested three things from the city council:

1. Some financial compensation for the lost revenue, due to improper handling and oversight of the project’s impact on the local economy, and asked for some sort of a resolution proposal by January 15th.

2. Forming a community-based business advisory committee, composed of small, medium, and large businesses of our community, who would meet at least monthly with the mayor and city council. This would allow the businesses to have a stronger voice with problems going forward.

3. And lastly, the creation of an independent review committee to determine what happened with this project and why those challenges occurred. By analyzing this data, the hope would be to avoid issues with future projects.

After his presentation, the meeting then moved on with the acceptance of Officer Dairy’s resignation. Council Person O’Rourke questioned if the officers had to sign a 5-year agreement to stay with the Dillon Police Department since the city pays for their training. Chief Alvarez stated he signed a three-year contract when he started, but he could not find a similar contract for Officer Dairy. The cost to send a rookie officer to training is around $27,000, he continued, noting that most officers quit the city and either go to work at the Sheriff’s Office or another department with higher wages. O’Rourke suggested the police department investigate hiring an outside HR firm to investigate why they are losing officers.

During the approval of meeting minutes, the discussion came up regarding what ever happened to the approval and purchase of laptops for the city council members. In lieu of laptops, it was suggested the substitution of iPhone or tablets for the members to use, which would be bought and paid for by the city. Many members stated they did not want an iPhone, and some even preferred handling documents the old fashion way on paper. No conclusive answer was reached on that topic.

The next agenda item circled back to the opening topic of the city water project. Kevin Johnson from Dowl Engineering presented the council with some final change orders and updated bills. The first bill was for “traffic control”, to the tune of $11,000.

Council person George Johnson proposed that the bill be cut in half, due to the lack of traffic control provided. The council asked Dowl’s Johnson to address this, to which he spewed off his reasoning to the excessive charge. He stated it was a non-negotiable bid document, which wouldn’t allow for any price reduction. He stated they would have to go and place a claim against the retaining bond with the company. Council person Johnson reiterated his confusion for paying for traffic control when Mungas did not deliver proper traffic safety and only provided barricades.

The confusion stemmed around the point that you cannot cut a line item in half, and you would need to take any grievances away from the contractor through the Bond negotiation. Kevin Johnson kept echoing that the city needed to stay within the confines of the contract, even though many at the meeting voiced similar concerns with Mungas repeatedly violating their contract.

Many tried to explain that this contract is based on the fact that if you hire someone to build a 3-car garage and they build it, you pay them for the finished product. But what they seemed to be glossing over was if they built you a three-car garage that was crooked, leaked, and had many flaws you would not square up on payment until the garage was completed to what was agreed upon. Kevin Johnson advised the city to pay for the work in good faith that Mungas will come back and finish the checklist, as well as guarantee the work in the coming years. If there is a grievance with the work, then the city needs to present it to the final Bond payment and take it out from there.

Moving on in the change orders, Mungas also asked for the city to forgive eight of the days they went over the allotted time. It was pointed out that Kip himself admitted his construction crew screwed off for one week early in the season, to which council members began questioning Kevin Johnson more in depth over the contract worked and by extension granted to Mungus early on. At this point, Dowl’s Johnson’s mood changed from explanative to a defensive stance, shifting the blame back to the city and what people observed as a street closed vs open.

At this point Ron Carroll posed the question, “It states in the contract that you have no authority over Mungas construction, and that Dowl Inc. is there to monitor the specs and make sure they stay within these specifications.”

Kevin Johnson responded “That is very correct, we had authority over them to direct them how to comply. To comply with the contract specifications.”

This question and answer highlighted that the city had fallen short, hiring Dowl to be the babysitter, when in reality the only job Dowl had was to was make sure Mungas met the requirements of the engineer. The somber realization was that too much trust had been placed in the wrong hands.

The next change order was in regard to the replacement of survey points that were destroyed by Mungas in the city streets. Again, excuses followed that it was someone else’s fault and the city needed to pay for these expenses. When pressed, Johnson stated if they had known the survey points were there, it would have cost even more because it would have been a bid item. This mistake could have been avoided by a simple phone call.

Council person O’Rourke stated, “It sounds like the surveyors did a sloppy job and we are paying for it.”

Kevin’s response was “everyone has an opinion.”

The total cost of the change orders co7-1 thru co7-3 came to a grand total of $115,647.64 before some negotiating taking a little off, leaving the city to try and get any money back they can when it becomes time to release the final $40,000 bond. This step is slated to be complete in roughly 2 weeks from the date of this city council meeting.

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