Liability for water tower questioned

The Monticello City Council tabled any action on a proposed amendment to the Foth Engineering agreement that would net the city a $30,000 refund but release the company from any liability for the performance of the water tower.

The issue stems from a construction flaw that left the new 500,000-gallon elevated water storage tank roughly five feet short of the planned height, affecting water pressure and storage capacity.

The solution? Foth suggested extending the overflow pipe inside the water tower at its expense, but contractors were unavailable, and the city expressed strong interest in fixing the problem before winter weather set in.

Scott Bailey, the city’s water operator, set forth on another option – one that Foth agreed with – that would allow him more manual control over the water system.

City Superintendent Floyd Allsop said the changes would increase the capacity and provide operational and capital savings for the city.

“We ended up settling on the negotiated figure of $30,000 which will offset our expenses to install the equipment Scott already has ordered,” Allsop said. “In exchange for that, the engineers want a release from that water tower portion of the project. Not the water mains or the water system, just the water tower itself.”

The amendment reads that Monticello would release Foth from “all liability claims, costs, loss, damages, and causes of action, known and unknown, current and future, that may ever arise from design, construction, use, and operation of the Elevated Water Storage Tank.”

Resident Mike Holtz is concerned the city is giving up too much for what amounts to a simple paycheck.

“If you were a home builder and your architect or engineer came to you and asked you that, would you give him that release? No, you wouldn’t,” Holtz told the board. “The city paid for proper engineering and construction of the water system. We paid for it and that’s what we want to buy.”

Holtz said the error is the engineering company’s fault, and that it’s their burden to fix it.

“The engineer needs to solve this problem,” he said. “Contractually, that’s what they were obliged to do and it has gone on long enough. Allowing Foth to buy their way out of this is not in the best interest of the city. It’s a very poor precedence for our community and for anybody else.”

Allsop said Bailey was confident in his solution and it was “an opportunity for us to recoup some of our costs.”

“I personally don’t have a problem with this,” he added. “I’ve been involved in this for months and I’m trying to think of a way for us to offset some of our costs. Whether it’s right or wrong, whether it’s professional or not, that’s my goal – to help the city accomplish what was set out to do to help the operator continue to do his job as well as he does it, and then also do what is financially responsible for the city.”

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