Vice-president Walter Bowman told the council that the line item contract agreed to by the contracting firm Hil-Don mistakenly did not include a state-mandated cement cap over the newly-replaced water lines crisscrossing the main thoroughfare. It was later revealed that MSE also had failed to include the price for asphalt to cover the trenches.
"It was an oversight, somehow," Bowman said. And when the council balked at paying it, Bowman asked, "what are we supposed to do, leave the trenches open?"
Booth and Councilman Steve Lucas were among the more vocal members who scathingly returned the blame to MSE and insisted they float the bill for their mistake.
"This is a really serious screw-up. We're stuck with ($30,000) on the end of this project," and that is a lot of money for this little town. "This is a key component of next year's finances that we did not anticipate."
The council agreed they should not be held responsible for the bill and asked Bowman to talk with his firm about MSE's insurance paying for it, though Bowman said their deductibles were too high to help.
"That would come out of our own pocket," Bowman said.
"And it doesn't come out of ours?" Booth asked.
After more than an hour of debate, the council was still faced with a difficult problem. Should they vote to not pay the bill, they would be withholding payment from the contractor, Hil-Don, and stand a good chance the company will walk off the job. With the Christmas parade scheduled for Saturday, Carter said open trenches would created a hazard for the floats and potential liability against the city should the holes cause an accident.
Booth then moved to pay the contractor for the work but not pay the engineering firm "until more progress on negations about errors on the cement trench caps" has been made. It was approved unopposed though council members were not pleased.
"It's the surprises that we're always getting faced with," said Councilman Jayme Phillips.
But, Bowman countered optimistically, "I think we're through enough (on the project) we're not going to see any more like this."