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AWA asked for $30,000 for dams

Help sought to pay for replacement work

The Altoona Water Authority will consider whether to contribute $30,000 toward replacement of defective rubber dams installed in 2018 on two reservoirs — a contribution requested by the Utah company that arranged for the original installation.

HTE Engineering has agreed in principle to make the authority whole for the problem project, after the dams manufactured by a Chinese firm malfunctioned, but the small Utah company has been struggling with the cost of the do-over, especially given higher expenses connected with the new dams being made by a different Chinese supplier, tariffs that weren’t in place on the original products, shipping costs and now complications from the corona- virus epidemic, said authority staff engineer Mike Sinisi.

HTE seems to be committed to make things right and has been acting honorably, but “they’re asking us to kick in,” Sinisi said.

It may be difficult for the Utah firm, but it’s been difficult also for the authority, which “had turned the page” after the initial installation, then had to refocus on the issue — and which hasn’t been able to fill Lake Altoona and the Impounding Dam reservoirs to the desired levels without the additional spillway height provided by the rubber bladders, said General Manager Mark Perry, prior to the board’s postponement of a decision.

A consideration that may favor making the contribution to HTE is the willingness of installer Hickes Associates Inc. of Alexandria to replace the dams at the same $170,000 it charged in 2018, despite difficulties it had then, according to Sinisi.

Hickes has reviewed the procedures it used and concluded that a change in tactics would make it easier this time, Sinisi said.

Thus, the additional $30,000 that authority staff thought Hickes might require may not be needed — and could go to HTE, he implied.

Another consideration that may favor helping HTE is the likelihood that if that company backs off of its willingness to take care of the authority’s replacement costs, the authority would need to rebid the project.

The authority also would need to pay for it on its own and file a lawsuit that could be complicated and costly and take years in federal court — especially because it would involve both a domestic and a foreign firm, according to solicitor Dave Consiglio.

If the authority authorizes payment, it would be the only payment, and it would made after the job is done, officials said.

Maybe the authority could propose a smaller contribution that HTE would find acceptable, Perry said.

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