BRITT | The city of Britt is considering legal action against a Mason City-based asbestos and mold removal contractor for what it says is a costly mistake.
That’s what the city council discussed with City Attorney Earl Hill Thursday, Aug. 24, during a special meeting.
“I think our main question for you, Earl, was what’s our recourse?” said Mayor Ryan Arndorfer. “We don’t want to pay two people for the job.”
Earlier this summer, the city of Britt hired Jeff Bergo, owner of Bergo Environmental Enterprises in Mason City, to test and remove asbestos for $970 and $1,675, respectively, at the former hotel and greenhouse property along U.S. Highway 18 in preparation for a new commercial park.
After Bergo notified the city that the asbestos had been removed from the site, the council approved a nearly $20,000 contract with Bill Deibler Excavating of Garner in late June to demolish the building and remove trees on the site.
But progress on the demolition was halted in July after officials with the Iowa Occupational Safety and Health Enforcement found asbestos on the site following its visit during the city’s hosting of RAGBRAI on July 25.
“They took some more samples and there was more asbestos, so now everything is considered contaminated at this point because it’s all in a pile,” said Shell Anderson, city clerk/administrator, Aug. 15, while she presented the council with a bid to remove the remaining debris — a bid that was more than 20 times what the city paid Bergo initially.
At the meeting, the city council tabled hiring another licensed contractor to remove the debris until receiving legal advice about Bergo and agreed to add the item to its agenda for the Aug. 24 special meeting.
During the special meeting, Hill asked the council for permission to discuss the topic with a Des Moines attorney. The council gave him the go-ahead.
“We want to know what our options are before we agree to any of these proposals,” said Mike Ostercamp, city councilor. “We want to know if we can go back on Bergo, on his bonder’s insurance.”
Hill said that’s something the city can discuss with his friend in Des Moines, if interested.
Arndorfer said he’d like to see the issue with Bergo resolved but he’d also like to see progress made on the nearly $1 million commercial park project, including the installation of a road, yet this fall.
“I don’t want to leave that sitting looking like it is forever until this is all figured out,” he said. “Regardless of whether we get something from Bergo and its insurance or not, we’re still going to have to pay to have the work done.”
Several council members pointed out that the city has hired Bergo in the past for work on the former bank and Ben Franklin buildings on Main Avenue and there were no issues then.
“Everybody makes mistakes,” Hill said.
Councilor Curt Gast said, “It’s a costly one.”
Bergo said Wednesday in a phone interview with the Globe Gazette that he removed the asbestos he found in doing his 25 to 30 samples earlier this summer.
“There was hidden asbestos,” he added.
Arndorfer said the city couldn’t hire Bergo to return and complete the work because his license had been revoked, but Jens Nissen, Iowa OSHA administrator, said Friday, Aug. 25, that although citations were issued on Aug. 11 against Bergo Environmental Enterprises in relation to the old motel project in Britt, it remains a licensed contractor.
“Just because a contractor may get a citation doesn’t automatically lead to the revocation of their license,” Nissen said.
Anderson said the city received two quotes, one from Site Services Inc. of Algona and another from ECCO Midwest Inc. of Cedar Rapids, for the removal of the asbestos-contaminated debris.
The council unanimously approved hiring ECCO Midwest for $45,550, and requested they start as soon as they can.
“Will you get them here as soon as possible?” Arndorfer asked the city clerk/administrator.
Anderson said Wednesday that ECCO Midwest is required to submit a notice to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, which takes about two weeks, before work can continue. The new contractor submitted its notice on Monday.
After ECCO Midwest completes the debris removal, Deibler will return to the site to remove the trees and fill the hole.
A bid opening for the Burgardt Commercial Park road construction project will take place at 11 a.m. on Sept. 14, and a public hearing regarding the project’s proposed plans, specifications, contracts and cost estimates will be held at 7 p.m. Sept. 19 at City Hall.