The St. Francois County Commission is considering a request made for financial help from Special Road District 2 President William Hoppe for cost overruns due to unexpected foundation issues discovered during construction of a recently completed replacement bridge on St. Joe Drive in Park Hills.
Hoppe appeared before the commissioners at their weekly meeting held Tuesday morning on the third floor of the courthouse annex in Farmington.
According to Hoppe, the county owns half of the property on which the new bridge was built near the KFMO radio station in Park Hills to replace the previous bridge, and it is on that portion of land where instability issues were found that resulted in a higher cost for the completed project.
“Basically, what happened was that three years ago the road district undertook replacement of that bridge,” he said. “We had it guesstimated out at about $500,000 to replace the bridge and we had a contract request for proposal on bids from engineering firms not to exceed $125,000 per $625,000 project.
“Now that we’ve got the bridge in and it’s taken care of and everything there, our final expenses are going to be right at $800,000. So, obviously what we had planned for a 15 percent leverage and leeway isn’t going to be enough for our first payment that we have to make.”
Hoppe believes the special road district will have a cash shortfall of approximately $25,000 when the first payment comes due in October.
“In effect, what we’d like to do is ask the county for $25,000 because half of the bridge is in the county,” he said. “The other half is in Park Hills and will be maintained by Park Hills. There is still some work to be done on the bridge — specifically the new sidewalk does not meet current handicapped standard because it has a 2-inch drop on each side.
“That’s going to be taken care of when the roadwork is completed. Basically, what we need, gentlemen, is something to tide us over until the taxation accruent comes in for next year.”
County Auditor Louie Sieberlich asked who was to blame for the cost overrun on the bridge construction.
Hoppe replied, “I would have to say, if you’re going to find fault, you’re going to have to put it with Mother Nature because there’s no way you could determine that the insidious rock base that was engineered on the specifications was not solid down to the depth required for the new bridge supports.”
Presiding Commissioner Harold Gallaher asked to interject at that point in the conversation.
“Typically on a new bridge estimate, you allow for about 9-foot of depth on the end to solid rock,” he explained. “That’s just kind of a standard engineering estimate because without that they’re going to have to go through a lot of money to drill, test drill, core grill.
“So they just throw in a 9-foot estimate and hope for the best. In this case, apparently it was a lot deeper than that to get to solid rock. You can get to fractured rock, but it’s solid, weight-bearing rock that they have to get to.”
Road and Bridge Supervisor Wendell Jarvis said, “I think in this particular situation, when they come in and test drill, you could come in and test drill like on this end of the table and the rock might be bad on that end of the table. So wherever they test drill, that’s what they’re going off of. They’re not going to test drill the whole area. It might test fine here, but you can go five feet…”
Hoppe interjected, “Five feet further and you’ll get a completely different reading.”
“Correct,” Jarvis said.
Hoppe said the project’s engineering firm drilled five test sites and all came back positive.
“To make matters worse, part of our cost overrun was the fact that when you go down that far to hit solid rock and then build up, you have a road deterioration, or fall, that you have created,” he said. “So we had to come back in and put riprap landing buildup area all across that end just to keep the roadway from deteriorating to the point where within a couple of years we’d have to rebuild the road.”
Gallaher confirmed that the county had dealt with similar problems with other bridge projects where a large amount of dirt had to be removed and then replaced with dirt and rock.
“You get a compaction situation where over traffic you want 100 percent compaction, but you don’t get that,” he explained. “You hope for 98 to 95 — but every 2 percent of 16-foot fill, that’s inches of settlement, and then you have to go back and fill the settlement. So that’s part of the never ending part of building a bridge like that.”
Sieberlich asked Hoppe if there was any “soft road match funding” that could be recovered from the St. Joe bridge project.
Hoppe replied, “There is a 100 percent total road match to St. Francois County on this project. There are no government or state funds involved. The final bridge estimate total that we turned over to the city of Park Hills determined what that amounts to.”
Gallaher said, “What we’re talking about is in the three-quarter million range, somewhere in there.”
Hoppe replied, “Three-quarters would be very, very close.”
Associate Commissioner Patrick Mullins asked if the special road district would return to the county in the future asking for additional funds and Hoppe said that, at this time, it was not anticipated that additional requests for funding will be necessary.
The commissioners said they would look over the matter and attempt to come up with an answer to Hoppe’s request by next week, but indicated the county had always been open to assisting the special road district and would most likely find funds in the county budget to come up with the shortfall.
“I would have to say, if you’re going to find fault, you’re going to have to put it with Mother Nature …” — William Hoppe, Special Road District 2 president
Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or firstname.lastname@example.org