December 8, 2022 Camden County Commission meeting at 10:00 a.m.

The Camden County Gadfly attended the December 8, 2022 Camden County Commission meeting at 10:00 a.m.

Commissioners Gohagan and Williams were present. It was a pretty packed meeting held in the conference room of the Commission Office.

The first agenda item was a support letter for Branches for the Lake. They are working with the Magic Dragon Trail and are pursuing an economic development grant. This support letter was approved unanimously by the Commission.

The other agenda item was the big one everyone was waiting for: Veregy (formerly CTS).

At the May 17, 2022 Camden County Commission meeting, the Commission received the only bid for their building remodel. Veregy was the sole bidder and they presented a $4.7 million bid to renovate parts of the Justice Center, the Camden County Courthouse, and the Commission Building. The Commission approved this bid and at a later meeting, they funded the project with a bond. Camden County departments began moving out of their offices in early August of 2022.

I wrote about that meeting here.

Veregy had previously conducted (or more accurately, is conducting) a similar renovation project on the Adair County Courthouse.

Two representatives from Veregy were seated at the conference table: Regional Operations Manager for Missouri Jason Brushwood and Project Manager Jason Trickey. Brushwood did most of the talking and often would shush Trickey when he attempted to respond to questions. I’ve never seen an adult get shushed so often.

Brushwood explained they initially thought they were supposed to use the Camden County Maintenance Department as their point of contact for the project. Once Brian Willey was brought on by Camden County to oversee things, Veregy was then under the impression that he was their point of contact. Brushwood now wanted clarification regarding who they should be interfacing with from Camden County regarding construction issues and change orders.

Commissioner Gohagan stated that Veregy is supposed to report to the Commission on the progress of the project. According to Gohagan, the Commission needs to have a public meeting any time there is a change order that would involve the transfer of public funds. The Commissioners are the signing authority for any additional expenses.

Commissioner Gohagan made a motion appointing Commissioner Williams as Veregy’s point of contact. This appointment passed unanimously, albeit reluctantly on the part of Commissioner Williams.

Brushwood went on to explain that some work had already been completed based on signed proposals. Brushwood stated this work was outside the scope of work described in their contract.

There were three change orders for this work:

The first was for “pass throughs” into the walls of the extension building where Camden County employees were moved to continue operations during the construction ($5,810)

The second was the installation of a new HVAC unit at the extension building ($10,300)

The third was for the replacement of one of the existing sewer lines from the Commission Building to the main line. This involved cutting, excavation, pipe repair, a city permit and backfill of the sewer line coming from the building into the main sewer line. The existing clay pipe had collapsed and was clogged by a root wad. ($26,500)

According to Brushwood, Veregy assumed this work had been approved because they were interfacing with the Camden County Maintenance Department. They had performed the work based on signed proposals, but they did not have fully executed change orders.

Commissioner Gohagan said he had previously been informed by Veregy that $1,505,000 of the total project expense had been committed to the renovation of the Commission Building. He thought the replacement of the sewer line would have been included in the scope of work as described in the contract. Jason Trickey claimed the scope of work covered the plumbing for the bathrooms in the Commission Building with their own sewer line. The discovery of the root wad in the other line required additional work.

Jason Brushwood asked the Commission to sign the change orders for the three jobs described above.

Brushwood stated that the scope of work in the contract was written by the Veregy development staff. Commissioner Gohagan complained that the scope of work was very vague. Brushwood said their contract does include exceptions for unknown issues that may be unearthed during construction. These issues have to be addressed with change orders.

Commissioner Williams stated that he thought that’s what the “cushion” built into the cost was supposed to cover?

Brushwood said that the “cushion” was intended to be used in the event that estimates were incorrect. For example, if they thought they were going to replace 30 rooftop units on a building and they actually needed to replace more rooftop units than they estimated.

Jason Trickey provided an example of potential unforeseen costs such as removing flooring in the courthouse and discovering that there was unanticipated asbestos found there.

Commissioner Gohagan insisted that Veregy needed to have weekly status meetings with the Commission so the commissioners could be briefed on the progress of the project. The Veregy representatives agreed to this.

Jason Trickey then discussed the progress of the project:

Phase 1 (Commission Building Interior) is 90% complete and expected to be finished Mid December.

Phase 2 (Courthouse Interior) is 70% complete and expected to be finished End of January.

Phase 3 (Courthouse Exterior) is 75% complete and expected to be finished Mid December.

Phase 4 (Civil Package-asphalt, paving, etc.) is 20% complete and expected to be finished End of December.

The tuckpointing on the Courthouse roof is complete.

Jason Brushwood explained that as an act of good faith, Veregy was willing to give Camden County $10,000 to help pay for the extended rent of temporary space for the county employees. Brushwood did not feel that these delays were due to Veregy’s performance. When Commissioner Gohagan asked if this $10,000 should be considered liquid damages for their failure to meet the estimated completion deadline, Brushwood assured him that the money was not a payment of damages. Veregy was merely offering the money in good faith.

The final thing Veregy wanted to discuss was another potential change order. The pipes running domestic water and sewage throughout the courthouse are made of old cast iron and they have become very brittle. Veregy recommended they be replaced. They also recommended a hot water circulation pump for the building. The Courthouse currently has only a 30 gallon hot water heater and very little hot water ever reaches the third floor. This change order had an estimated cost of approximately $200,000. The commissioners again argued that this work was covered in the scope of work from the contract.

Veregy disagreed.

Brushwood did suggest that the extra cost could be paid by “swapping out” some aspects of the scope of work that Veregy will not need to complete. One example is that Veregy did not need to run the sewer lines as far as planned to connect with the city’s sewer lines. The savings from this portion of the scope of work could be used to reduce the cost of the re-piping change order. Veregy will get the cost numbers on these portions of the project and bring them back to the Commission for their decision.

Unfortunately, Veregy has never provided an itemized cost breakdown for the different portions of the project estimate, so Camden County has to rely on Veregy for those numbers.

Commissioner Gohagan asked them when Veregy was first contacted by representatives of Camden County regarding this project. Brushwood said he wasn’t sure and he would have to get back to Gohagan with that information. (Don’t hold your breath for that.) Commissioner Gohagan said they would have the Auditor attend the next Commission meeting to answer questions regarding the chronology of Camden County’s interaction with Veregy.

Commissioner Gohagan asked if Veregy would agree to liquid damages if the project is delayed past January? Brushwood was adamant that they would not agree to liquid damages, because he felt the delays were not Veregy’s fault. He also explained that the contract was not a liquidated damage contract. If the project was based on a liquidated damage contract, that knowledge would have been passed on to their “trade partners” who would have bid on the project as a liquidated damages project.

(It appears that if you actually want a project to be completed on time, it costs extra.)

Members of the audience who were standing or sitting all around the Veregy representatives started asking questions. There was a barrage of questions from various folks. One citizen commented that without Auditor Jimmy Laughlin or the Maintenance Department Supervisor Melvin Miller, two of the apparent decision makers on the project, present at the meeting, the meeting was pointless. She felt that the Veregy representatives were “passing the buck to them.” It must have been an interesting meeting for the Veregy guys. To be fair, we didn’t give them the full Camden County experience. There were no dogs running around under the table in the meeting room. Maybe next time.

The Treasurer wanted to know if Veregy had worked on other courthouses in Missouri? They surely must have been familiar with the typical issues that can arise with these old courthouses based on the age of those structures? Jason Trickey stressed they would get the Commission the cost numbers on the plumbing change order in the next few days.

The majority of the disagreement seemed to come from both parties’ differing interpretations of the scope of work from the contract. Commissioner Gohagan asked if members of Veregy’s development team who wrote the scope of work could attend next Tuesday’s (12/13) Commission meeting. Brushwood said he would see if they could be there and requested that the county send Veregy a copy of the questions they have about the project.

Brushwood did ask that the Commission at least approve the first two change orders involving the extension building since the scope of work in the contract never included improvements to the temporary quarters of the county departments. Commissioner Williams agreed that the first two proposals were outside of the contract’s scope of work.

The Treasurer again asked if Veregy could provide an itemized list of construction costs that added up to the $4.7 million total cost for the project? Jason Brushwood was hesitant to provide that information. He said that some of that information was proprietary or competitive information and he would see what he was allowed to provide.

The commissioners then ignored Brushwood’s request for approval of the change orders and adjourned.

And that was that.

Welcome to Camden County, Veregy! Enjoy the roller coaster ride. You’re not in Adair County anymore.

2 thoughts on “December 8, 2022 Camden County Commission meeting at 10:00 a.m.

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