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Officials miffed at contractor’s silence over masonry problems

Times News Service

By The Mercury

Pottawatomie County commissioners expressed disappointment Monday that the general contractor for the new justice center was not present to inform them about dismissal of one of its subcontractors.

KBS Constructors dismissed its masonry subcontractor for breach of contract last week, primarily for missing critical deadlines in the project schedule, according to Trisha Fruendt of SMH Consultants, the county’s liaison for the project.

“They didn’t meet four critical deadline dates. They just blew them,” Fruendt said of the masonry subcontractor, adding that the issue is now in the hands of the surety company.

“What really upsets me more than anything is KBS not being here this morning to explain what’s going on,” Commissioner Pat Weixelman said. “A problem of this magnitude, I would expect KBS to be sitting right here.”

Although Fruendt said KBS feels it can move forward with the project while it seeks another masonry subcontractor, commissioners were concerned with a potential delay in the construction schedule.

“It becomes the county’s problem if they (KBS) ask for a time extension,” said Commission Chairman Gary Yenzer.

Weixelman also noted that major delays in a project can result in diminished quality as workers rush to get back on schedule.

“We’re the ones answering to what’s going on over there,” Weixelman said. “I would expect to hear from Mr. Dekat (KBS project manager Loren Dekat) very, very quickly on what their game plan is. I just think it’s a very serious deal, especially at this stage of the game.”

In other business Monday:

• Karen Hibbard and Don Wissman with the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce updated the commission on a proposed Flint Hills Welcome Center at the intersection of Interstate-70 and K-177.

The proposed center, still in the conceptual stage, would sit on 7.3 acres on the west side of K-177, and would feature points of interest in the Flint Hills area.

“Pottawatomie County certainly has a lot of treasures that travelers along I-70 would like to see,” Hibbard told commissioners.

The proposal is being studied by a core committee representing five counties––Pottawatomie, Riley, Geary, Wabaunsee and Morris.

A study commissioned by the committee indicates that an effective welcome center could result in an increase of $25.3 million annually in tourism revenue for the five-county area.

The projected cost of construction of the center is more than $9 million, “although there are a lot of bells and whistles that could go away,” Hibbard said.

Hibbard and Wissman said the committee is pursuing possible federal grant funding and added that state involvement would likely be necessary if the project is to ever come to fruition.

• The commission approved renewal of a two-year lease with George Ebert for haying the area surrounding the county landfill.

• The commission approved an agreement with the Kansas Department of Transportation for spraying weeds along right-of-way on state highways in the county.

Commissioners approved a cost of $25 per hour for labor and $39 for equipment, increasing the contract price for the first time since 2007.

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