PALMYRA, Mo. -- A dispute over who is responsible for a broken water line is complicating the completion of a new bridge over Bear Creek along County Road 423 at Withers Mill west of Hannibal.
The dispute came to light at Monday's Marion County Commission meeting when commissioners learned that a water line near the bridge site was inadvertently ruptured with a trackhoe this winter by an employee with Chester Bross Construction of Hannibal, which was awarded the $421,996 contract to replace the bridge.
James Bensman, vice president of MECO Engineering in Hannibal, which designed the bridge project for Marion County, told commissioners that the Ralls County Water District in late 2016 voluntarily moved its existing water line farther away from the bridge site in anticipation of the construction. However, the new 6-inch line was nevertheless struck by the trackhoe in January.
Lucas Drullinger, manager of the Ralls County Water District, said the district learned about the bridge-replacement plans in late 2016 and took action quickly to move its water line to a point that was deemed to be out of the way.
Drullinger said the district also installed two shut-off valves that rose out of the ground on each side of the relocated line and painted them blue so the whereabouts of the new line would be visible to a construction crew.
The line nonetheless was hit because it wasn't buried as deep as the contractor had expected.
"Apparently it ‘floated up' from where you guys put it in the ground," Layne Colgrove, project manager for Chester Bross Construction, told Water District officials at Monday's commission meeting.
Drullinger said Water District officials didn't know exactly where to put the new line or how deep it needed to be because the engineering drawings for the bridge project weren't completed until several months ago -- long after the line had already been moved.
Had the Water District been given detailed plans earlier, Drullinger said, the district might have approached the line-relocation project differently.
"It was not our fault," he said. "Our water line was fully functional before this project. Now it's not because of the project."
Bensman told commissioners he feels MECO Engineering and Chester Bross Construction "have no wrongdoing on this" because they assumed the Water District had moved the line to a suitable location and depth.
"The Water District moved ahead and made a decision on their own to do something before we could coordinate anything," Bensman said. "That basically is what led to this point."
The Water District eventually learned that its water line should have been buried at a depth of about 12 feet to be safe from any possible construction interference. Drullinger said reburying the line at that depth would cost an estimated $15,000.
The question now is who should pick up the bill.
Bensman told commissioners he would try to resolve the issue by submitting an after-the-fact change order request with the Missouri Department of Transportation, which is financing about 80 percent of the bridge replacement cost. He said the rationale is that the water line's relocation cost should have been figured into the project's overall cost from the beginning, but was not.
On another water-related topic, Mark Bross, engineer for the Ralls County Water District, told commissioners the district is on track to build a new water treatment plant in southern Marion County that will serve all 2,800 customers of the district, which currently buys its water from the city of Hannibal.
Bross said the plant is being built off U.S. 61 near Route W. The system will tap into an underground aquifer. Once the water is treated, it will be pumped out through the district's existing distribution system starting in summer 2019.
Presiding Commissioner Lyndon Bode said county officials will want to review the Water District's plans to bore under several county roads to install some new distribution lines.
"We're going to make sure they're buried good enough," Bode said.