Linn County skips cost estimate for pipe replacement, pursues design work

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CEDAR RAPIDS — The Linn County Supervisors have decided not to spend $13,000 to get a cost estimate to replace faulty pipes in two county buildings.

Instead, the board on Tuesday agreed to bypass that step and begin actual designs for the project to replace Fiberglass heating pipes in Linn County’s jail and courthouse.

Garth Fagerbakke, Linn County facilities director, recommended the board move forward with design work sooner than later, since it appears the replacement project will take place no matter what.

“I think that we’re probably going to have more failures based on our past track record, so short of replacing it, we are subject to whatever may happen as far as damages,” Fagerbakke said. “If we think we’re going to head down that path of pipe replacement, we could just as well move forward with design.”

The board on Tuesday agreed to scrap the cost estimate contract and have staff move forward with a design contract.

Supervisor Brent Oleson said he’d rather see that $13,000 go toward the design process since pipe replacement seems imminent.

“I don’t want to be penny wise and pound-foolish,” he said.

Fagerbakke said it appears the pipe replacement project will exceed the $130,000 threshold that requires the county to bid out the project. A cost estimate for the project will be completed before it is bid out.

The pipes in question were installed during the rebuilding process after the 2008 flood inundated both buildings. However in January, joints separated in several locations. As a result, a mixture of water and non-toxic antifreeze dumped into courtrooms, judges’ chambers and the rear portion of the jail. More than 500 gallons of the mixture spilled into county facilities and both buildings lost heat for several hours during the incident.

A February investigation found that pipe joints failed, which could be attributed to many factors, including inadequate surface preparation on the pipes, improper quantity or inadequate curing of the adhesive or improper insertion where the pipes meet the joints.

While the warranty on the pipes has expired, Oleson said the board may consider legal action.

“I do think we need to look at litigation,” he said.

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