Unsafe manhole being dug

Village Administrator Ron Cook shared a scenario during the Murray City Council meeting indicating an instance when X-Press Underground Inc. was digging for a manhole, but wasn’t doing it safely. When digging for a project like this the construction crew is supposed to have a box holding up the walls to ensure it doesn’t cave in on anyone, but X-Press obviously did not.

MURRAY CITY — The Village of Murray City can’t catch a break when it comes to the sewer project going on, which is projected to extend until December.

During the Village Council meeting on Thursday, Mayor Mike Dupler brought up the concern of X-Press Underground Inc., the construction company working on the sewer project. Dupler stopped X-Press on Thursday, May 30, from working due to a combination of events.

One of those events was when semi trucks and dump trucks were using the alleys and side streets instead of the main road, state Route 78, like they’re supposed to.

“The side streets are not set up for semi truck traffic. They’re not wide enough; they’re not made for that kind of traffic. Murray City is a tough one, the ground is bad, and the streets are tight. I feel for those people because the contractors not the greatest at keeping things cleaned up and we keep pushing and pushing — some of it is their fault and some of it is the conditions they’re in,” explained Gary Silcott, principal of Stantec Consulting Services, the engineering company for the sewer project.

According to Ron Cook, Village Administrator, the flagger with X-Press motioned for a semi to go down a back road, which tore down power and phone lines to a resident’s home.

Judy Wolfe said she and her husband were left without power for 28 hours, from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. the next day.

“They broke off the pole right into the ground, the semi did when it snapped the wires and then the semi was sitting on live wire. We’re lucky that truck driver didn’t get electrocuted,” Wolfe remarked.

Wolfe has Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and she couldn’t take her breathing treatment that evening. It scares her and her son, because, “You never know when you’re going to have to call somebody.”

Cook, also the Village Fire Chief, said that afternoon he had a car fire he had to run to and when he came back the company was packing up to leave and Wolfe was still without power.

Cook began reaching out to David Sugar Jr., owner of X-Press, and was told it wasn’t the construction company’s fault because it wasn’t their truck that hit it.

“I sent an email to X-Press and said you can’t just leave that go, you’ve got to fix that. At first they said it’s not their fault, we didn’t hit it, the truck driver hit it. So we kind of said, look, but if it wasn’t for you detouring him that way then he wouldn’t have went that way and wouldn’t have hit it,” stated Silcott.

Therefore, Cook reached out to Sugar’s father, the previous owner of X-Press to get things moving for Wolfe. Finally, Cook and Silcott got X-Press to agree to reset the pole that was knocked down through the company that sets up their electric for their lift stations.

Additionally, the inspector hired by Stantec to relay information between the contractor onsite and the engineering firm, Donnie Cook, was recently fired. Silcott said there had become too many conflicts of interest for him to be working so close with X-Press on a daily basis.

“The thought was we would hire a local guy that would take care of the local people — be on the contractor to make sure he was doing things right, but there were things going on that we were made aware of that made it — it was a short fuse to it, he was fired the same day,” explained Silcott.

Now the inspector for the project is Steve Jenkins, who Silcott mentioned probably should have been their first choice, but they were trying to have someone local to ensure the residents were looked after.

Cook also shared a scenario during the council meeting indicating an instance when the crew was digging for a manhole, but wasn’t doing it safely and sent the photo to Silcott. When digging for a project like this the construction crew is supposed to have a box holding up the walls to ensure it doesn’t cave in on anyone, but X-Press did not.

“The guy is about 30-foot deep, no trench box and that trackhoe is holding up the wall from falling on top of him. They (X-Press) said it took too long to move a trench box,” shared Cook.

“We actually had it (caved in walls) happen on one of our projects three or four years ago and a guy ended up dying. It’s not safe, that should have never happened. We’ve had several correspondences with them, saying, look you need to do better at your protection and make sure your guys aren’t in there without a box because this isn’t the first time they’ve done it,” mentioned Silcott.

Silcott continued to explain that though the county is the owner of the project and Stantec is the project manager, construction laws are complicated when it comes to what Stantec can tell X-Press to do. They can direct, ask or request that something be done a certain way but it doesn’t mean they have to follow what’s been requested of them. However, Silcott did mention when it comes to safety issues they’re allowed to step in when necessary.

The horrible road conditions, not knowing where the construction crew is going next and other arising issues are building a wedge between the Village and X-Press. Although, the tough ground conditions, landscape and other factors don’t help matters for the construction crew either.

Silcott stated they only had two companies bid for the project and even tried to set the project up for one of the contractors working on the Carbon Hill sewer project, but the contractor didn’t have enough manpower to handle that large of a project.

The other company that bid for the Murray City sewer project had been awarded jobs in the past by Stantec. Knowing they’ve ended up in a lawsuit because of that company’s actions in the past, they hired X-Press for the job and relayed to them how difficult the land makes the project to ensure they were still up for the task.

Though multiple times the company has come up to Silcott stating if they knew how difficult this project would be, they wouldn’t have bid for it — especially since the company is from roughly two and a half hours away. Silcott also noted the crew knew what they were getting into when they bid for the project though too.

Silcott added he always has a “You bid it, you bought it,” conversation with the contractor before they officially award the project. He talked with Sugar Jr. and ensured he knew this was going to be a tough job for the company to handle.

During the “You bid it, you bought it,” conversation Silcott said, “Do you understand this is a tough job, the ground is bad — his numbers were higher than I’ve ever seen in my 25 years of experience so I feel like they saw the soil reports and knew it was going to be bad so their price reflects that they thought it was going to be a tough job.”

To reiterate, Silcott asked residents to be patient with Stantec and X-Press because the ground conditions, hills, utility lines in the way and everything else that comes with a construction project that can make this very time consuming and difficult.

The contract with X-Press is good until December and they’re more than halfway done, but Silcott mentioned they’re to the point where they need to be cleaning up more and repaving roads — or at least bringing in another contractor to do the clean up for them.

“Fortunately the work they have done and we’ve tested has passed so that means what they’re installing is being done properly, but their means and methods could definitely use some work,” concluded Silcott.

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