City Council President Lisa Borders was asked, during her speech to the Buckhead Business Association, when the city is going to hold contractors to honoring the costs and work schedules they agree to on major projects, such as the expansion of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and the water and sewer projects.
Almost all of the projects at the airport over the past five years or more have involved large overruns on budgeted costs and have failed to have been completed on the schedules agreed to by contractors. The same has been true of several of the individual water and sewer projects that have been contracted out by the city.
The city has had to go back to the Environmental Projection Agency, the state Environmental Protection Division and the court to seek an extension on the court-mandated repairs to the city’s sewer system because the agreed to work will not be completed by the deadline set by the court and agreed to by the city.
Also, just a day after Borders spoke on Sept. 20, there were news reports that estimated costs of major projects underway and planned at the airport were continuing to grow. In fact, the total dollar figures for those projects, which was projected to be $6.3 billion as recently as this past June, is now likely to reach $9 billion according to Airport General Manager Ben DeCosta.
Borders said the overall water and sewer overhaul project is on time and on budget. “There are different pieces of the water and sewer project that have been more expensive than we anticipated. There are a couple of drivers to that.
“When we opened the streets, one by one, the problems were much worse than we had anticipated,” when the work was contracted 18 months before it actually began, she explained. “That means the scope of the work increased. More work also means more materials. More materials means more expense.” She also said the increase in the price of steel was a major factor in the cost overruns.
“In terms of the airport, there have been cost overruns on the terminals and whatnot. What I am told is that this is happening all over the country,” Borders said. “What we have done is that we have a project manager at risk on the most recent projects at the airport. What that means is they are going to have to eat some of that overrun.
“Typically at the airport it is also a cost estimate. The numbers are not hard,” she explained. “In the most recent case, the numbers were just wrong,” and she said DeCosta told council that.