VALPARAISO | It's now up to DLZ to design a culvert replacement under the Rail America tracks behind the Franklin House, but Valparaiso's Utilities Board wanted to know why the original consultant did not do the job.
The board approved the contract with DLZ for $56,000. But before they did, they questioned the lack of success by R. W. Armstrong, which worked for 18 months and was paid $44,078 -- but did not devise a suitable design.
The board spoke with Deputy Engineering Director Adam McAlpine and Utility Director Steve Poulos last week about the situation.
R. W. Armstrong designed three possible solutions, which all were rejected because of the high water table and a layer of peat in the area. Both were a surprise to the city engineer's office, which had expected the ground to be stable since it supported the railroad and was suitable for the existing culvert when it was built about 100 years ago.
McAlpine said, for those reasons, the city did not ask Armstrong to do any soil borings as part of the design process. None were done until the railroad required it before granting permission to put the replacement culvert under the tracks. The borings showed the water table five feet below the surface and the peat layer 10 feet down.
The culvert, located in the Franklin House parking lot, handles the storm drainage for a large area south of Harrison Boulevard. It has to be replaced soon because it is in poor condition and developed a deep sinkhole on the south side of the tracks in November 2010.
Valparaiso had hoped to replace it in 2012.
Several board members asked if Armstrong had any culpability for not completing the contract. Poulos said he will talk to Armstrong, but does not believe they were to blame since they were not asked to do the borings. Armstrong was one of three companies to submit proposals to make a new design, but DLZ was the low bidder and McAlpine said the city thinks a new company might have new ideas.
The contract with DLZ includes additional borings to try to find a suitable location for the culvert. McAlpine said the area west of the existing culvert might be suitable because the land on the south side of the tracks isn't as steep. East of the culvert, a sanitary sewer goes under the tracks on Campbell Street and might provide a location.
"The soils are completely driving the design," McAlpine said. "We started with the assumption they weren't a problem."
The city hopes to complete the design and start construction this summer.