TRAVERSE CITY — Grand Traverse County’s Board of Public Works selected the local firm that designed and built the county’s long-troubled septage treatment plant to serve as its engineer of record for the next three years.
Gourdie-Fraser Inc. beat out three other engineering firms for the job following a 9-2 vote by public works board members last month.
Marvin Radtke, a Green Lake Township trustee and Paradise Township’s zoning and planning administrator who sits on the public works board, cast one of the votes against Gourdie-Fraser. Radtke said public perception about Gourdie-Fraser concerned him, given the fiascoes that plagued the septage treatment plant since its inception in 2005.
“That is still a sensitive topic in the circles that I frequent and the public I deal with,” Radtke said.
“They are not happy, and I’ve been advised they be held under a microscope, so to speak, so we can keep an eye on them.”
County officials hired Gourdie-Fraser as the design and construction firm for a facility that cost $7.8 million and opened in May 2005. But problems started when the plant partially collapsed a month later. An investigation found pieces of structural steel missing from three of the facility’s four main buildings, as well as design deficiencies and shoddy workmanship that required over $2 million in repairs.
The plant also took in about half the septage volume and cost almost twice as much to operate as originally projected.
Garfield Township Supervisor and public works board member Chuck Korn acknowledged many county residents still want to “get a pound of flesh” from Gourdie-Fraser for the septage treatment plant debacle.
”But we’re over and done with it,” Korn said. “There was an investigation, there was mediation and there was a settlement.”
Local officials in 2011 accepted a $725,000 cash settlement from Gourdie-Fraser and project manager Michael Houlihan, which was used to cover two-years worth of plant losses, rather than take the firm to court.