Marlinton rejects drawdown payment
The Marlinton town council voted not to pay a current invoice for the nearly completed stormwater and sewage project until it has more information on work that was done.
The council discussed the issue at a special meeting on Monday evening.
Town recorder Robin Mutscheller read the invoice, which included $45,568.51 in construction costs and $48,150 for technical services to Hannah Engineering.ﾠﾠ
Councilmember Norris Long moved to approve the payment and councilmember David Zorn seconded.
Councilmember Joe Smith noted that the council had not yet approved contract changes, or change orders, for additional work tacked onto the original project.
ﾓUntil we approve that change order as a council, we cannot approve payment of the bills," he said. "I brought the issue up two meetings ago that we did not approve that change order and nobody made a motion to approve the change order. So, until we approve the change order, how can we pay a bill that we're going to get written up on an audit for?"
Smith said an audit after project completion would reveal a procedural failure.
ﾓWhen they audit this project, they're going to say, 'listen, the council never approved this project,'ﾔ he remarked.
Mayor Dennis Driscoll informed the council of three change orders before work commenced, but the extra work was never formally approved by the council. The changes included drainage work near the courthouse and other tasks that engineer DeWayne Hannah thought were prudent to add to the current project.
Mutscheller noted the quandry faced by the council.
"How can we approve the change order if the work has already been done?" she asked.
Councilmember Loretta Malcomb said the work should not have been started without council approval.
"It should be approved before it's done," she said. "It shouldn't be slipped in there if it hasn't been approved."
"But that's history," said Zorn. "It's already been done and it's over with."
Mutscheller asked the mayor for details about the change orders, but Driscoll said he would have to review records and research which invoices covered the extra work.
The council voted 4-2 not to pay the current invoice, with Long and Zorn voting to pay it. The mayor and council agreed to seek advice from funding agencies on how to resolve the problem and to conduct a special meeting, if necessary.
The stormwater/sewage project is being funded primarily by economic stimulus funds.
During the mayor's report, Driscoll informed the council that the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) had denied a request for quick funding of more than $700,000 for additional, high priority repairs to the town's stormwater and sewage systems, to be completed in conjunction with the current water project.
DEP representative Elbert Morton designated the additional repairs as "immediate" priority but the agency will not provide immediate funding.
The mayor read a letter from DEP water and wastewater division engineer Mike Johnson, stating that adding funding onto the current project would be "unduly complicated." Instead, the DEP recommends that the town request the funding as a new project.
Driscoll informed the council that Governor Manchin's office had submitted the town's snow removal costs from the December 18 storm to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for reimbursement, but was unsure how much of those costs would be reimbursed.
Mutscheller told the council that a local business owner had complained about floodwater back-flowing through the newly-installed stormwater system during the January 25 flood.ﾠ
Driscoll said a check valve on the Greenbrier River segment of the drainage system had arrived just days prior to the flood and had not yet been installed. The valve was installed three days after the flood and a second check valve on the Knapps Creek segment was operational before the flood, according to the mayor.
Driscoll and Malcomb informed the council of a project to paint large historic or scenic murals on buildings in town. Local artist Molly Must would paint the murals on private property, but receive some funding from the county Dramas, Fairs and Festivals board. The murals would be similar to onesﾠ in Richwood and other towns in West Virginia.ﾠ
In other business, the council:
- agreed to attend a presentation of a proposed town telephonic emergency alert system on March 3 at 7 p.m. at the Municipal Building. The system could be used to inform residents of impending floods or other emergencies. Mutscheller investigated the system, which is used in Bath County, Virginia, and coordinated the presentation.
- approved the final invoice for the Brush Country water project for $2,658.35 to C.I. Thornburg Co., Inc.
- approved convening of the police committee to prepare advertising for a new town police officer, due to the resignation of officer Joshua Vaughan.
- tabled action on employee drug policy until the next meeting.