Supply, inflationary woes impact capital projects

By DAVID MARTIN

Editor

Supply chain problems and inflation are impacting capital construction projects throughout the county and have resulted in Green River’s long-planned wastewater treatment plant being pushed backed.

According to Mark Westenskow, public works director for the city, bids for the wastewater treatment project came in with materials’ pricing increased by between 30-50% from when initial estimates were made. Westenskow said the increased costs have caused the city to seek additional funds for the project, as well as request the State Loans and Investments Board to modify the terms of the loan it awarded the city. The recommendation was made by SLIB’s staff and would lower the interest rates owed on the loans, which total $27 million. Westenskow said SLIB will decide if the city’s loan will be modified during its Dec. 2 meeting.

Another increase has been in the price of PVC piping. The pipe is used for both sewer and water lines and has increased in price, forcing the city to purchase bulk quantities for future projects. A recent water main project was completed using pipes stockpiled by the city and Westenskow said other items are in short supply as well.

Westenskow said contractors are feeling pressure to lock in orders now to preserve whatever prices they’re quoted. While inflation has impacted the wastewater treatment project, shortages of materials used in many capital construction projects have not only been more expensive, they’ve been in short supply. This has especially been true for materials used in road maintenance.

“Everything related to road construction is a concern for me,” he said.

Supply shortages have caused problems for both the city and Sweetwater County, with both reporting issues securing supplies for planned work. Gene Legerski, facilities manager for the county, said the county had to work with four different vendors to buy enough paint for the county’s annual road striping project. The lack of road paint is unusual, as there is often a ready supply for purchase.

“Usually when you order paint, it shows up,” Legerski said.

The city has had to work with multiple vendors to address their supply issues as well.

Water meter setters, small metal devices created to house water meters, have been in short supply for the city. Westenskow said they had to buy a number of meter setters from one vendor to maintain its supply, while agreeing to wait eight weeks on a second set purchased from a different vendor at a better price.

“Anything metallic is hard to get,” Westenskow said.

Other materials have also proven difficult to receive in a timely manner. The county expects the final shipment of roofing material for work at the Sweetwater County Justice Center to be delivered Nov. 30. The roofing orders were made in July.

Westenskow said the challenge the city has is to decide if it should wait to see if prices improve or if prices will continue to increase. He said the city is communicating with state legislators, as well as other state officials, to determine how Wyoming’s share of the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act funds will be spent. He said another unknown is what will happen with projects being proposed for inclusion in a sixth-penny specific purpose tax initiative being proposed for the 2022 election.

Westenskow said many of the projects initially proposed were estimated before supply issues and inflation became a problem, leading him to worry that projects approved by voters may not get fully funded by the tax.

 

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