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Benton Mayor David Mattingly has been given a 25 percent change order threshold for the Lower Military Road construction project.
The City Council approved an ordinance to this effect in a meeting Monday night.
The ordinance notes that the council previously had passed an ordinance giving the mayor a 15 percent contingency for change orders for this extensive project.
The original contract the city awarded to McGeorge Construction for the project was $7,837,272.
On Monday night the council passed the ordinance raising the contingency amount by a 7-3 vote, with Aldermen Doug Stracener, Brad Moore and David Sparks voting against it.
Pointing out his frustration with the significant change orders that have occurred with the project, Stracener said he could not support the ordinance and said he would like for representatives of the contracting firm to "have to stand up here and justify" the reasons each time this occurs.
Stracener also pointed out that the contracting firm is the company of choice for Metroplan, the regional planning agency responsible for overseeing the project and the grant-application process that led to the approval of funding.
According to Karen Scott, chief financial officer for the city, the original amount budgeted for the project was $10,003,960, but the contractor's bid that was accepted was for $7,837,272.
Currently, the difference between the original budgeted amount and the new total, including the 25 percent change order threshold, is $207,369.
Work on the project was halted for more than two months when faulty soil was discovered under the roadbed and the mayor was told it would cost more than $1 million to correct the problem.
The overall project includes the widening from two to four lanes of a 1.5-mile segment on Lower Military where it connects to Interstate 30. Raised medians and wider sidewalks are part of the planned work.
Alderman Bill Donnor said he, too, is frustrated by the change orders, but contended that requiring the contracting firm to attend meetings to justify the situation likely would delay the project even more.
"It would cause stoppage and that's not the right thing to do," Donnor said.
"Since I've been on the council, I don't recall a construction project that hasn't had change orders," he added.
Alderman Frank Baptist called this "a vital project" and said the council members "do not need to stall the project."
In other matters, the council council approved a resolution authorizing an agreement between the city and the Benton School District for the placement of two school resource officers in Benton schools.
The current plan call for adding a third officer in the future.
The memorandum of understanding attached to the resolution states that these officers are "a tremendous benefit to both parties."
The school district is obligated to refund $72,000 to the police department yearly, which helps to offset the cost to the department for the 191-day use of these officers.
The council members unanimously approved the resolution.
Other action from the council meeting will be reported in a later edition of The Saline Courier.