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Wells wants money back

By Staff | Oct 30, 2018

“This should have been complete and open three weeks ago.”

Those were the words of Wells’ city engineer, Travis Winter, with regards to the city’s still-ongoing Third?Street project.

In their regular meeting on Oct. 22, the Wells City Council discussed liquidating the damages of the delay in their Third Street project, which has been a concern of the council for several months.

“This is the hardest block of reconstruction ever,” Mayor David Braun said. “We have pushed this project back far enough. We need to get this done.”

The Public Works Committee met the week prior and discussed collecting liquidated damages from the Third Street Project. Their recommendation to the City Council was to have Winter start the process of negotiations with the contractor of the project, EMJ Pipe Services, Inc., on liquidated damages.

“By liquidated damages you mean fining for fees?” questioned Whitney Harig.

“It can’t be a fine,” informed Crystal Dulas. “They signed a contract, and did not stick to that contract, so it’s more of a penalty than a fine.”

“Last fall, when we pushed the project back to this year, with a June completion date, we should have had plenty of time to complete this project by summer,” stated Winter. “I mean obviously there have been a couple months worth of rain delays to be considered, but we’re really getting down to the end, and the schedule is not filling in like it should have. It should have been complete and open three weeks ago.”

“Are all those days where it was nice and nobody was working there, are those documented?” Brenda Weber asked of the city engineer.

“Oh yeah,” was Winter’s reply. “It gets to be an issue where they didn’t come on the nice days so when they came on the rain days, they couldn’t do anything. They had other priorities in other locations. There have been a lot of moving parts and its been a challenge. We had some contaminated soil in the summer we had to deal with and a few other issues with concern to the contract.”

“We’re going to have Sixth Street done quicker than Third Street,” joked John Herman. “We really do need to get this done, though. Time is running out and fast.”

The council directed Winter to negotiate liquidation damages with EMJ Pipe Services, Inc.

Another area of negotiations came up during the council’s meeting, as well, with regard to the Eastown Apartments. The 16-unit apartment complex had been a concern to City Hall staff after it had not completed its yearly inspections.

After 14 letters from the city of Wells, as well as a hefty fine of $300 per unit for not completing their yearly city inspections, Eastown Apartments finally responded.

“You’ll see the notice from our building official, Brian Stensland,” city administrator CJ?Holl stated to the council. “He works with all of the rental properties in town. We have a process where we do annual rental unit inspections. Each unit is required a $50 inspection fee. In this particular case, the Eastown Apartments was communicated to many times on getting their rental inspections done.”

Holl stated Stensland then did send out, last week, fines to property owners who were delinquent on getting their 2017-2018 inspections done. The apartments were fined $300 per unit because they were not timely in their inspections and ignored communications with the city.

“When they received that in the mail, they were very quick to respond,” stated Holl. “They came in and said they wanted to get that unit inspection done. Brian (Stensland) did get those inspections done, and the owners of the property asked if you would waive the claim that was put out there. It’s up to you, but it does set a precedent.”

Though Eastown Apartments did complete their 2017-18 inspections, the city administrator clarified for the council that they still have to complete unit inspections for 2018-19 before June of 2019.

“Any rhyme or reason why they ignored our 14 letters we sent them?” questioned councilwoman Dulas.

Holl stated the apartments changed ownership a few times, and had tennant issues there. About half of their units are empty currently, but they are taking some opportunity to refresh those units.

“I sat down and had a lengthy conversation with Dale Kelly, who is in charge of the units,” said Holl. “They outlined their plans of improving the units, which sounds good.”

“If you forgive one you forgive them all,” was Mayor David Braun’s response.

“You want people to get stuff done and done timely. We don’t want to be in the business of collecting fines but it is a necessary evil,” responded Holl.

Councilwoman Harig stated she would entertain reducing the fine, but would not entertain waiving the entirety of the fines.

After some discussion, the council chose to decrease the fines by $400, which cleared each unit of the $50 original fee the owners would have had to pay for the inspections. Eastown Apartments still owes the city of Wells $4,400 for being negligent in their communication with the city. All members of the council agreed to the reduction in fines, except for Mayor Braun, who voted against reducing the fines.

In their meeting the Wells City Council also:

Discussed future ownership of the Wells Golf Club.

Approved painting improvements for City Hall’s interior.

Discussed a quitclaim deed with the Erdner property.

Requested Winter talk to county engineer Mark Daly on moving CSAH 60 project up to the year 2022.

Approved of Highway 109 downtown signage replacement for a total cost of $1,884.20.