By Jerome Tharaud/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
The Havre City Council voted Monday night to pay $200,000 to the contractor in charge of upgrading the Havre water treatment plant.
The council voted unanimously to approve the payment to Williams Bros. Construction of Spokane after a closed-door executive session.
Havre Mayor Bob Rice said after the meeting that Williams Bros. had wanted to charge the city $1 million for work done to finish the plant after the deadline had expired.
He said that after two days of intensive negotiations with Williams Bros. in late March, the city agreed to settle and pay the $200,000 rather than face the costs of going to court. The City Council approved that payment Monday night.
During the negotiations, each side said the other was responsible for the delay, Rice said.
"It would have cost $350,000 to take it to court, plus there was no guarantee we'd win," he said.
"So in the best interest of the city of Havre, I thought 200,000 (dollars) was a safe figure for us," Rice said. He said he was not completely happy with the settlement, but that it was the "lesser of two evils."
The total cost of the upgrade, not including the $200,000, was about $6.7 million, Havre public works director Dave Peterson said this morning.
John Williams, the owner of Williams Bros., could not be reached for comment this morning, but previously said that many issues contributed to the delay, such as sediment in the water caused by heavy spring storms.
Williams Bros. also blamed the delays on problems associated with concrete purchased in Havre, and sued the company that provided it. A counterclaim was filed and both suits are still pending.
The original deadline for completion of the water plant upgrade was Oct. 31, 2001. In November of 2001, the city extended the deadline for substantial completion to July 21, 2002, and for final completion to Oct. 31, 2002.
The project was substantially complete on Nov. 25, 2002, according to the city.
Neither side's attorney could be reached for comment today.
"I guess the money will have to come out of the reserve - out of the water reserve," Rice told the council before it voted.
The water reserve is used to pay for work done to the water plant or water lines, Peterson said this morning. He said the reserve is made up of funds from city water bills.
Peterson said the settlement will not affect the price of city water in Havre. He added that the negotiations with Williams Bros. are not yet complete, but should be within the next few weeks.
City clerk Lowell Swenson said today there is $1.3 million in the water reserve.
The money will be paid upon the completion of the plant, which will also be determined by the negotiations, Peterson said. He said the plant is running, but there are still some things to be finished.
"Thank you very much," Rice told the council after the vote. "I can sleep tonight."