The city of Bend has agreed to pay $3.2 million to a Washington-based construction company for a job the company did not finish.
It was a spectacular failure of planning, construction, contracting and monitoring of a $60 million expansion of the city’s wastewater plant.
There may be plenty of blame to go around — to the city, contractor Apollo Inc., and project designer CH2M. And the legal settlement may be wise to protect the city from additional financial risk with the uncertainty of an outcome in court and from the certainty of additional legal bills. But it shouldn’t be lost on Bend taxpayers this was a series of mistakes that cost them the $3.2 million and untold hours of city time.
“I believe the settlement agreement is fair for all parties,” Councilor Justin Livingston said Wednesday night. “It’s not a great situation for anybody.”
It’s especially not great for taxpayers.
Apollo will get $4.6 million in total from the settlement. There’s the $3.2 million from Bend and $1.4 million from CH2M. Apollo had sued at one point for about $8 million. The public can’t see the actual settlement agreement, yet. It apparently hasn’t been written.
What went wrong? That’s been a matter of dispute.
“Contractor’s lack of adequate planning for the work and poor quality of workmanship. Extensive rework, reinspection, and retesting has been necessary. There have been a total of 88 notices of deficient work issued thus far,” a city staff report said at one point. For instance, the city said the contractor put the roof on wrong on one building, not once but multiple times. Apollo has said there were flaws in the design of the wastewater project.
City Manager Eric King pointed out Wednesday the city has learned from what happened and changed its contracting and other procedures for complicated, technical projects. He also praised his staff for taking steps when things started going wrong to protect the city from further financial loss. That’s some comfort.
But the city should recognize that it can’t be too careful when it comes to spending taxpayer money.