Construction contractor specifications for Prescott's 36-inch water pipeline put the responsibility for quality control measures on Johansen Construction Co.
But Johansen never hired anyone to conduct soil compaction quality control. He probably saved more than $20,000 this way, estimates Copeland Geotechnical Consultants Vice President Bryan Carpenter, since the quality control requirement was not a separate bid item.
Johansen's lack of quality control left the job entirely to an on-call, part-time consultant – Copeland – that the City of Prescott had to pay.
Prescott officials neglected to call Copeland when Johansen installed the final 3,000 feet of the pipeline in the spring of 2000, so no one conducted compaction tests there.
Johansen now is digging up and recompacting that area on the south side of Chino Valley, at his own cost, after recent tests showed soils didn't meet Prescott's 95-percent compaction specifications. Some areas under the pipeline had holes as long as eight feet – zero compaction. Prescott Environmental Services Director Brad Huza is personally overseeing the remedial work.
"I'm going to be the one in the field, I'm going to be the one that actually watches the compaction," Huza said.
Prescott and Chino Valley are splitting the $20,000 cost of retesting soil compactions in the three-mile section of the pipeline that runs through Chino.
The cost of future retesting and recompacting on the 13-mile pipeline is an unknown at this point.
Chino officials want Johansen to recompact the pipeline along two more roads in Chino next, and are negotiating with Prescott and the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) toward that goal.
If Prescott and Johansen balk at that, ADEQ should issue them an official notice of violation and start fining them, Chino Valley Public Works Director Stu Spaulding said.
ADEQ spokesman Kurt Maurer wouldn't comment on Spaulding's suggestion except to say, "At some point, we may be asked to exercise more of an enforcement capacity."
Prescott's original specifications for contractor quality control on the 36-inch pipeline say:
• "Quality control measures sufficient to produce materials and workmanship of acceptable quality are the responsibility of the contractor.
• "On request, the contractor shall provide factory certificates of compliance or analysis or both to the contracting agency.
• "No separate payment shall be made for contractor quality control. This work shall be considered incidental and included in the unit price bid for construction or installation of the appropriate contract pay items."
Copeland and state officials have concluded that the final project didn't meet the soil compaction standards laid out in the original specifications.
"It's poorly written – they're going to read it the way they want it to read," said Phil Pettice, chief of inspections for the Arizona Registrar of Contractors. "When you write specifications that are ambiguous, that (potential poor quality) is what happens. Something like that should be specific about who is going to do it."
Indeed, interpretations of the specifications vary depending on who you talk to.
Huza said Johansen was responsible for quality control, but the specifications don't require him to hire or employ quality control people. He can build the project at his own risk, Huza said.
"I'm not here defending Johansen," Huza added.
"The specifications say the contractor is responsible for quality control, period," countered Spaulding, who also is an engineer. It's rare, even "dumb," for a contractor not to hire a soils technician to verify that his work meets the specifications, Spaulding said.
The City of Prescott is considering excluding Johansen from bidding on future projects, City Manager Larry Asaro said.
"Hopefully, we will have the evidence to show he shouldn't be a bidder," Asaro said.
Owners usually require contractors to hire full-time geotechnicians for quality control, Copeland Geotechnical Consultants President Glen Copeland and Vice President Bryan Carpenter said. Huza and Johansen disagree.
The City of Prescott hired Copeland for quality assurance on an on-call basis. Therefore, Copeland never certified that the project's soil compactions met Prescott's specifications.
There's a good reason why the contractor usually hires his own quality control consultant, while the owner hires a quality assurance consultant to oversee the quality control, Copeland said.
"How can they (a quality assurance consultant) protect the interests of the contractor and also protect the interests of the city?" Copeland said.
Carpenter added that it was hard for his company to protect the city's interests, because the city sometimes didn't back him up on problems.
"I had to wait for the contractor to compact spots," Carpenter said. "Generally, the owner won't let things like this happen."
Prescott officials hold private water-line builders to different standards, Copeland said. They must test soils every 200 feet to prove that they meet Yavapai Association of Governments (YAG) construction standards of 95 percent compaction.
'They check that pretty closely in private work," Copeland said. "I mean, I've had plenty where I've had to go back and pothole (conduct more compaction tests)."
Prescott's own 36-inch pipeline tests were more than 800 feet apart. Huza noted that YAG standards allow changes to the 200-foot rule at the inspector's discretion; he told Copeland to vary inspection times and to try to inspect at least once per day, he said.
"There is a double standard between what they do and what they require of others," Copeland said.
And Prescott's 36-inch pipeline is much larger and more important than any private pipeline in the region, Copeland noted.
Other civil engineers and contractors won't complain about Huza because they need his approval for their projects within Prescott, Copeland said.
One contractor whom Johansen has underbid more than once had plenty to say, but for the reasons cited above, wouldn't use his name.
"We do observe how he (Johansen) does things, and how he can get away with it – because we can't," the contractor said. "The tragedy of it is that Brad Huza defended it."
But come Aug. 7, water and sewer projects no longer will need Huza's approval. In an unprecedented move, ADEQ has taken away Prescott's authority to oversee local projects.
Copeland, Spaulding and others also have complained that Huza has a conflict of interest because of his private engineering firm, Four Peaks.
Huza said he hasn't conducted his private work in the tri-city area for approximately five years. However, Chino Valley records show that as recently as last year, he was working for a private developer there.