Council alarmed over Point of Pines pump station issues

By Aaron Keebaugh

 

Discussions over alleged malfunctions of the new Point of Pines pump station came to a head Monday night when Councillor-at-Large Anthony Zambuto motioned for project managers and city public works officials to appear before the council to address problems with the station’s alarm systems.

Zambuto said that he has received numerous calls from citizens who reported that the lights, which trip when backups and other potential problems occur with the system, were flashing repeatedly. His motion, he said, will gather all necessary personnel and documentation so that the council can inquire about the reasons for the problems.

But a representative from Brown and Caldwell, Charles Lombardi, the infrastructure leader for the company that designed the station, was on hand at Monday night’s meeting. Ward 5 Councillor John Powers said, “maybe tonight we can quell some of the questions about the pump station.”

Before discussion got underway, Council President Ira Novoselsky said that the motion will be sent to the Public Works Subcommittee. But Zambuto, who wanted the details of his motion to come before the full council before being sent to committee, became upset by Novoselsky’s position.

“You’ve chosen to subvert my motion. I protest profusely,” Zambuto said to the President. “There’s a game being played up here [at the council bench],” he said. “I want to see specifications. I want to see the one million dollar station what taxpayers paid for. I can only ask based on what documents can show.”

“Everything was built to spec and what city has approved,” Lombardi said. “That pump station [which pumps a range between 200 to 1600 gallons of water per minute] is working as designed.”

He explained that the recent wet weather events in the city have not caused any sewage backups in the area the station services. The faulty alarms, Lombardi added, were due to problems with the fire alarm system, a loose door to the station that tripped a wire, and possible oil leaks inside the enclosure that tripped the system lights.

“I’ve had one call about that light,” Powers told Lombardi. “I’m not an engineer. If there’s a problem, that problem will be corrected. We invested one million dollars in taxpayer money. It behooves you to make sure that station works.”

Councillor-at-Large John Correggio raised questions about the new station’s price tag, which had climbed to nearly $1 million during construction last year from the original bid price of $300,000. He also thought that CDM was the original company that won the bid for the station’s new design.

Lombardi said that CDM was never intended to design the station and that Brown and Caldwell had always been on the contract for the design. And the original budget would not have covered the work, because the project included a variety of host expenses—new windows, a new manhole to replace a defective one, and “other minor things,” he continued. Lombardi explained that the $1 million total was only a ballpark figure and that the actual cost was probably less.

Public Works Superintendent Donald Goodwin, also attending Monday night, agreed with Lombardi’s assessment that the station is working properly. He noted that fixing the intrusion alarm may require a new door to the building.

The pump station is currently hooked up to a phone system that automatically calls a DPW worker on duty when the alarms are triggered, Goodwin said. But the phone system cannot handle leak problems.

“Once we get the new monitoring system put in, we’ll be able to tell first hand what’s going on,” he said. “The station, it’s never failed. The operational function of that station has not gone down, not one bit.”

“Nobody’s saying or accusing the pump station of being down,” Zambuto explained to Goodwin. “The constituents communicate with me [and] I ask questions.”

Goodwin said that all documents and contracts for the station’s build and design are in city hall and a simple phone call to the DPW with questions about the alleged problems would have helped.

But Ward 1 Councillor Richard Penta said, “We’re missing the point of Councillor Zambuto’s motion.” The faulty alarm system at the station needs to be addressed. “I can see the frustration of Zambuto. The council motion [he raised] is not out of line,” he said.