Water well contract delays continue to plague department

  • Keith Okamoto

Big Island water well installation and repair projects are moving forward more slowly, as everything from cement shortages to site access to permit issues snarls progress.

Delays and possibly extra costs associated with them sparked off a discussion Tuesday by the Water Board that will be continued at its August meeting once it’s properly noticed to the public. At issue for some board members is how much time and extra costs should be allowed when a project is competitively bid.

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“At some point contractors should take the responsibility because they won the award on a low bid,” said board member Steven Hirakami. “If they take the contract and then add more, they’re not really the lowest bidder.”

Keith Okamoto, manager/chief engineer for the Department of Water Supply, said contracts typically carry a 10% contingency, although others may be less. Delays outside the contractor’s control are typically charged to the contingency.

“The contractors, they really don’t want to be beyond the time,” Okamoto said.

The longest delay approved by the Water Board on Tuesday was for the Halaula well development project, which was granted an additional 122 days to complete, on top of 255 days previously approved. Its original completion date was Nov. 18, 2020. Now it’s Nov. 30, 2021.

The $13 million project includes a new well, 500,000-gallon reservoir, and more than two miles of waterlines to the Halaula water system in North Kohala. It’s intended to enhance the system currently serviced by two other wells that are operational, Okamoto said.

Contractor Goodfellow Bros. LLC is awaiting a permit from the Commission on Water Resource Management to install a pump and motor, necessitating the latest extension, Okamoto said. The prior extension was needed when land changed hands and the site couldn’t be accessed.

The board unanimously approved the request, after learning there were no additional costs expected. But additional delay requests may be forthcoming, Okamoto said, depending on how long it takes to get the permit.

The shortest time extension on the board agenda was a request for 12 days to complete the Olaa deepwell repair from Derrick’s Well Drilling &Pump Services LLC. The 12 days were required when cement could not be found on the island to complete the work, but the job was completed July 23, Okamoto said. The delay, which also had no additional costs, was also unanimously approved by the board.

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A third project, a waterline replacement in Papaikou, will take an additional 38 days because contractor Nan Inc. couldn’t start as scheduled when a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit didn’t arrive from the state Department of Health as soon as anticipated. In addition, there was extra work involved when a cracked drainage structure was discovered.

Any additional costs are within the contingency allowed, Okamoto said.

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