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Debate continues on change orders

JACKSON – On Monday, debate once again filled the Northampton County Commissioners’ board room concerning the Northampton County Wellness and Cultural Complex.

Heavy discussion between the commissioners and County Manager Wayne Jenkins was displayed over yet another change order on which the work had already been done.

The cause for contention this time: brick mortar.

Northampton County Recreation Department Director James Roberts appeared before the board to request approval of the $4,045 change order with Heaton Construction Company, Inc. of Roanoke Rapids for the brick mortar to be changed from gray to white.

“Gray mortar was the first selection, but due to the selection of darker brick, white mortar is needed,” said Roberts.

Commissioner Chairwoman Virginia Spruill (D-2nd) expressed her unhappiness with the change order to first Roberts, then Jenkins.

Spruill said the commissioners had seen this situation before, referring to decision made earlier this month regarding a different change order for the same project.

She added before any contract changes were worked on they would have to be approved by the board.

“If we raise the question after the fact nothing can be done,” she said.

Jenkins said at the last meeting he informed the board of this particular change order, as well as the chair.

Spruill said the commissioners had found out the work on the mortar had been done already that morning.

Jenkins cautioned if the board waited to convene and make a decision about a change order it would delay the project. For each day the project is delayed another day is added onto the contractor’s contract.

Commissioner James Hester (D-1st) asked Jenkins if there was anyway to foresee the changes before hand.

Jenkins said there was not and explained that when the board approved to scale down the project in the beginning of the year because it had exceeded available funding, the change had created an expense.

Spruill asked about the price disparity between the white and gray mortar.

Jenkins said he assumed the architect, Surapon Sujjavanich, had “done his homework” and suggested that the board speak with Sujjavanich. He added the architect had been out of the country for three weeks and that the color of the sand was no business of Sujjavanich.

Spruill asked Jenkins to have Sujjavanich come to the next meeting.

“Our change orders have never caused such debate,” said Spruill.

“I think if we had been contacted prior to (the work being done) it would have eliminated what we’re going through now,” said Commissioner Fannie Greene (D-5th).

Vice-Chairman Robert Carter (D-4th) asked how the last change order would effect the project funding.

Jenkins said the project has a contingency line item fund as required by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). At the last meeting it was reported the project had $63,840 in that fund.

Jenkins also warned there is another change order that will be presented to the board in an upcoming meeting, which will reduce the price of the project because a turning lane would not be needed at the entrance of the complex.

Commissioner Chester Deloatch (D-3rd) asked how much the price on the project would decrease.

“That’s in the future,” said Spruill.

“I know Mr. Roberts will be relieved when this is done,” said Carter.

“Mr. Roberts and Mr. Jenkins, sir,” corrected Jenkins.

Hester made a motion to approve the contract change. It was seconded by Carter. The motion passed without objection.

Later in the meeting during board comments, Hester thanked Jenkins for his work, saying the commissioners often looks at him as an architect and a contractor.

“I understand your position is not coveted,” he said. “I’d rather be a pastor than do what you do.”

Jenkins acknowledged Hester’s comment and told the board they could take a look at the

brick and mortar at the project site if they wanted.

Deloatch asked Jenkins to keep an eye on the change orders.

On August 6, the commissioners approved a $13,046 change order, which called for one to three feet of soft unsuitable soil to be removed, replace it with stone and retested before concrete footings could be poured.

The 40 acre Northampton County Wellness and Cultural Complex will consist of several athletic recreational fields along with a building for the Office on Aging and the Recreation Department.