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Local

Rock Falls again avoids courtroom in sewer plant fixes

Mediation results in tentative settlement agreement

ROCK FALLS – After years of pending litigation, the city has reached a tentative agreement with two companies that worked on the sewer plant and lift station, which have required a series of costly repairs.

The City Council on Tuesday approved an ordinance that allows the city to sign off on the settlement agreement with Sjostrom & Sons, the firm hired by the city in 2009 to build the sewer plant and lift station, and Spaans Babcock, a subcontractor based in The Netherlands.

The city had withheld $50,000 that was owed to Rockford-based Sjostrom, citing various problems since the sewer facility went online in 2011. Most of the problems were with bearing assemblies that run large screw lifts, the city said. The mechanism moves sewage from the lift station to the sewer plant.

The parts were made by Spaans Babcock and installed by Sjostrom.

On July 25, 2012, Sjostrom filed a lawsuit in Whiteside County Court in an attempt to get the $50,000, and the city countered with a lawsuit claiming there were deficiencies at the plant and lift station. Sjostrom then filed a third-party complaint against its supplier for providing bad parts.

To avoid court costs, all three parties decided to go to mediation. Without any party admitting liability, the agreement calls for Sjostrom to replace three bearing assemblies on the screw lifts and grout repair at no cost to the city.

The companies will pick up the tab on different parts of the repairs and extend warranties on the work.

“The warranties are important in this settlement,” Mayor Bill Wescott said. “We have 5 years on the motors and bearings, and 3 years on some other parts.”

When the work is completed, the city will ante up.

“The subcontractor will pay Sjostrom to come out and do the work, and then we’ll pay them the $50,000 that had been withheld,” Wescott said.

In 2015, the city also reached a settlement agreement with Willett, Hofmann & Associates, the engineers for the sewer plant project. The city was paid nearly $816,000 after an investigation into flooding at the main sewer lift station that resulted in an emergency citywide water shutdown the previous year.

Wescott said the problems addressed in the engineering agreement are completely unrelated to the latest settlement.

Stanley Consultants Inc. of Muscatine, Iowa, determined that design errors contributed to the total breakdown at the lift station. Willett, Hofmann & Associates agreed to reimburse the city for all costs without going to court.

NEXT MEETING

The Rock Falls City Council next meets at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 603 W. 10th St.

The agendas will be posted at rockfalls61071.net and at City Hall. Call 815-622-1100 for more information.

The council meeting also airs live on Channel 5.

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