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Labor records are latest snag in Washington Co. Courthouse project

November 11, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- The latest chapter of an overbudget courthouse renovation includes questions about labor records and an outstanding $211,000 debt for the project.

A renovation of the Washington County Courthouse in downtown Hagerstown -- adding space for holding cells and a fifth circuit court judge -- started in 2004. It was estimated to take 15 months and cost $4.2 million.

Five years and 80 change orders later, the actual cost has reached $5.4 million.

This week, the Washington County Commissioners heard about a dispute over how much Callas Contractors should be paid for installing a prisoner transport elevator and a prisoner entrance ramp.

The commissioners asked several questions about the outstanding debt Tuesday as they put off a decision on paying it.

However, they voted 4-0 to pay a separate, more straightforward $8,200 change order connected to the project. Commissioners President John F. Barr was absent.

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The $211,000 change order covered work Callas Contractors did the last few years as the project became more complicated.

Joseph Kroboth III, the county's public works director, wrote in a memo that the county, its architect and Callas Contractors tried numerous times but couldn't agree on the cost of the change order.

Under terms of the contract, the county directed Callas to keep working, on a basis of time and materials, to keep the project moving. The county then paid what it thought was a reasonable amount, Kroboth's memo says.

The contract also let Callas appeal and ask for more compensation when the work was done, which it did Aug. 31.

Commissioner William J. Wivell said the county will end up paying more by not going along with an early estimate by the contractor.

Callas has asked for about $148,000 to be added to $538,000 previously agreed upon for the elevator work, for a total of $686,000, the architect's letter says.

Wivell said the contractor earlier had asked for a total of $655,000 for the elevator work, but the county didn't agree to the request.

Callas also has asked for about $63,000 more for completing the prisoner entrance ramp, up from $121,000 previously agreed upon, the architect's letter says.

The $148,000 and the $63,000 make up the $211,000 change order.

As part of negotiations on the change order, the county asked DFI, a consulting firm, to review Callas's request for more money.

But Robert N. Boyd, a DFI senior building inspector, wrote in September that records DFI reviewed didn't match hours charged to work performed.

Boyd wrote that a detailed review requested by the county and its architect was "unrealistic" and DFI couldn't agree or disagree with the contractor's figures.

However, the county and its architect "reviewed the information and concurs with the Contractor's request," Kroboth's memo says.

The commissioners on Tuesday asked Kroboth to talk more with DFI about its assessment of the work data it reviewed.

Kroboth said he expected these to be the project's last change orders.

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