East Chicago needs to stick to its guns on the new water filtration plant and not pay extra for a plant that fails to meet original specifications.
The $30 million plant was to have opened last November, but it remains offline because of problems with its state-of-the-art filtration system.
The existing filtration plant was supposed to be torn down in January, freeing up space along the Lake Michigan shoreline in accordance with the Marquette Plan, but the aging facility is still in daily use.
Siemens USA is being assessed a $2,000-per-day penalty for failing to provide the city a new water plant that met specifications. More than $600,000 in late fees have accumulated.
Siemens said the problems are the result of "unforeseen circumstances" and that "other equipment" — paid for by someone else — would be needed, despite the Siemens pledge of more than $100,000 for its suggested fix. Even then, winter storms could still keep the plant from producing up to 17 million gallons per day, the rated capacity called for in the specifications, Siemens said.
Siemens said that in exchange for its proposed fix, the company wanted modifications to its original contract that would not hold the company responsible for the effects of winter storms on the plant's operations or for the new process nearly doubling the amount of electricity the new plant would need.
Siemens also wanted to remove the late fee from the contract.
The East Chicago Water Board refused. The fix should be at Siemens' expense, the board said.
If Siemens USA needs to install additional gear to fulfill its promise, it should do so at its own expense. Do so quickly, to get the $52 million plant operational as soon as possible, and then East Chicago can waive all or most of the $2,000-a-day late fees.
We understand that keeping the existing plant operational is a struggle, but we also understand that East Chicago residents must be protected from paying more for the plant when the company, and not the city, caused the cost overrun.
Don't send a message to contractors that work that isn't up to snuff is acceptable.