WILKES-BARRE — The city will be asking for council’s approval next week to hire a new contractor for the Solomon Creek wall reconstruction project to replace the low bidder terminated earlier this month.
The administration wants to award the job to Don E. Bower Inc. of Berwick, said Joyce Morrash Zaykowski, the city’s director of the Office of Economic and Community Development and capital projects manager.
“I put it on the agenda,” Zaykowski said Monday.
It will be listed on council’s Aug. 7 work session for discussion and Zaykowski said the project’s engineer Borton-Lawson will attend to answer questions. Barring any changes it will be placed on the agenda of council’s Aug. 9 public meeting for a vote.
Zaykowski said a meeting has set up with Bower for Aug. 10.
Bower submitted a bid of $2,017,954 and was the next lowest after AR Popple Inc. to repair a portion of the Depression-era wall that channels the creek through a heavily populated section of South Wilkes-Barre and onto the Hanover Township where it flows into the Susquehanna River.
“Given the circumstances I’m much more comfortable with that,” Zaykowski said of Bower’s bid.
Popple of Wilkes-Barre was the low bidder at $1,548,448 and in May received council’s approval to proceed with Phase 1. But earlier this month, Zaykowski sent an email notifying Tony Popple, senior vice president of the construction company, that the city was terminating the contract.
Popple said he has not been given a reason and the city referred to language in section 16.03 of the contract that stated: “Upon seven days written notice to Contractor and Engineer, Owner may, without cause and without prejudice to any other right or remedy of Owner, terminate the Contract.”
The contract also stated Popple would be paid for completed work and expenses. Popple estimated he’s owed $211,000 for the work done in preparation for constructing the wall made of pre-fabricated concrete sections.
“We were going to be breaking ground Aug. 1,” Popple said. The first sections would be installed on Sept. 1, he added.
The approval of Bower will delay the project that’s been in the works for years and a priority of Mayor Tony George. A bond refinancing deal made $4 million available for work on a pump station and the city obtained more than $6 million in state grants for multiple phases of the reconstruction.
The creek rose from heavy rains last week and the forecast for the next few days calls for more rain. A temporary patch was made on a 40-foot section of the wall that collapsed into the creek bed in December 2016. Popple worried that the longer the project is drawn out, the chance for flooding increases. “They’re playing with fire,” he said.
Zaykowski said the engineers have a new timeline for the work that was to be done by Popple and the city obtained permission from the state and federal agencies to proceed with a different contractor. “We have all that,” she said.
Following Popple’s termination Councilwoman Beth Gilbert sent an email on July 19 to council and the administration asking for a briefing in order for council members to be given “all of the information we need to make an informed vote on the next lowest bidder.”
Zaykowski said that in the interest of moving along the project the administration decided against a special meeting and opted for presenting information to council at the work session.
Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.