Repairing the Luzerne County-owned River Common fishing pier wall will cost more than anticipated because additional damage has been discovered, the administration told county council last week.
Panzitta Enterprises had submitted the low bid of $56,750 to fix and install several large wall blocks known as “cut stones” damaged by this year’s ice jam on the Susquehanna River.
The stones fell over because the footing supporting them deteriorated, officials said. New anchoring is needed, along with a crane to move the heavy stones.
After seeking the bids, the administration discovered a cut stone in a different section of the wall had separated from the sidewalk about 2 or 3 inches, and another nearby stone also has “started to pull away,” said county Operational Services Division Head Edmund O’Neill.
The additional work and a subsequent requirement for the contractor to secure performance and maintenance bonds not in the original plan have increased the project to approximately $89,000, said O’Neill.
The expense will be covered by the county’s natural-gas recreation funding, diminishing the amount available for outside grants and other discretionary uses to about $47,000.
Councilman Harry Haas asked why the entire pier wall was not surveyed before bids were sought.
O’Neill said the newly discovered wall separation was hidden by grouting.
“It’s very difficult to notice. It’s not really obvious,” O’Neill told council.
Insurance will not cover the damage, officials have said.
Haas asked if the county can add insurance coverage so future River Common repairs don’t become a “perpetual expenditure.”
The councilman said he and many others feared it would “fall on the county” to fund maintenance when the River Common recreational enhancements were added.
Unveiled in 2009, the revamped $23 million park also included two levee portal openings, a new amphitheater and extensive landscaping designed to draw visitors to the water’s edge and make the river an asset.
The administration is investigating insurance options.
“We are reaching out to the insurance company to see if that’s something they will even put under the policy, and that’s questionable. Obviously, you can insure anything for the right amount of money,” O’Neill said.
Haas said he understands and doesn’t “want to throw good money after bad.”
The county has received $228,623 to $307,629 in funding from natural-gas drilling annually since the state authorized such earmarks under Act 13 in 2012. The funding has been largely spent on River Common maintenance, black fly spraying and recreation grants to outside entities, reports show.
In addition to the awarding of more outside grants, officials mentioned several options for the leftover natural-gas funding in July, when they expected a more ample $60,000 would be remaining. These possibilities included low-maintenance plants and mulch to spruce up empty beds at the River Common, gypsy-moth spraying assistance for municipalities, and a docking station for river boaters who want to access the fishing pier.
County Budget/Finance Division Head Brian Swetz said council has authority to spend all remaining funds. However, he asked council to consider keeping most or all of the money intact, saying the general fund operating budget will be on the hook if any unforeseen county-related recreation expenses arise.
The next natural-gas allocation won’t arrive until July 2019.
Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.