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The Hancock County Board of Supervisors held the continuation of completion of work hearing for a drainage ditch project, one that has the landowners upset with the appointed engineer from ISG.

During the Monday, Sept. 16 meeting, a letter was sent from ISG senior civil engineer Ian Droessler, which outled the issue, the work done, the deals made and the engineering fees.

According to Droessler’s letter, the engineering fees for the small repair or improvement project on the ditch are at a higher percentage of the total project costs when compared to the engineering fees of a large-scale project because the same amount of research, hearings and time for report preparations is needed for a small project as it is for a large project, and the complications of this particular ditch did not help with that.

“In addition, Drainage District 130 had design issues that drove up the cost of the final design: limited historical records, an outlet into a lake, a buried drop wall structure, government traversed ground, a poorly maintained ditch with overbank washouts and large quantity of rock and debris, and a snaking alignment with 49 horizontal curves in 3.1 miles of open ditch,” Droessler wrote.

Droessler then explained the deals ISG is willing to make with Hancock County, including a $10,000 adjustment for two months of service for September and October, not billing the district for $8,834.25 of engineering time spent on final plan preparations and specifications, as the first engineer on the project, Kent Rode, left the firm and was replaced with Droessler, who then had to reacquaint himself with the whole project.

The firm was then paid a total of $41,688.34, with $17,939.87 going to the engineer’s report and $23,748.47 going to the final plans and specifications, all including the offset adjustment of $10,000.

Additionally, after hearing complaints from the landowners that the engineering fees were still too high, ISG said it is willing to write off the fees billed for May, June and July, a total of $7,658.99. In total, the final adjustment to the engineering fees of the project is now $17,658.99, bringing the cost of the engineer’s report and the final plans and specifications to be $24,029.35.

“In essence, we have reimbursed the cost of the original report,” Droessler wrote.

However, after the August completion hearing, the Board had continued the hearing to September and again asked ISG to consider the fees further, at which ISG said it is willing to write off even the August fees of $4,153.85.

“In addition, at the continued hearing I stated ISG is willing to complete the acquisition of additional right-of-way for this District for no additional engineering fee. However, there will be cost for the appraisers and legal cost for notice preparation,” Droessler wrote. “If the Board wishes to proceed with right-of-way acquisition, even though some of the landowners traversed do not wish to incur any additional cost, we will honor this offer.”

Landowner Don Schleusner was not happy with this, saying the whole reason this started was because the engineer at ISG did not stick to the agreement.

“If he had done in the agreement like he was told to, he wouldn’t have made the trips back here. He wouldn’t have had the arguments with the landowners,” Schleusner said.

The landowners then insisted the Board no longer pay ISG until the issue is completely taken care of, whether that requires a full investigation or not.

“We have nothing to lose,” Schleusner said. “We have nothing. It’s already been taken from us.”

At the end of the hearing, Greimer said the board contact ISG and try to negotiate with them further and tell them what the situation is.

Schleusner agreed, saying if ISG keeps charging them the amount of money they are then the county needs to find a new engineer because right now it’s a “runaway train.”

“If Ivan walks away from that with the amount of $18,000 dollars, if ISG, I should say, walks away and doesn’t give in to, that ought to be a really clear sign what he thinks of Hancock County, the board of supervisors and their people,” Schleusner said. “He’s putting the handwriting on the wall. And if he comes back in, tries to make it right, well then I guess we need to retract some things, maybe he is going to try to do some things write and we can move on with it.”

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