Council settles claim on South Gloster work

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The city will pay $38,075 to Stewart Environmental Construction for unauthorized work on the South Gloster Street widening project.
Stewart Environmental, which was hired to install an underground irrigation system along Gloster, performed additional work OK’d by a city employee but not approved in the original contract or by the City Council.
Because the work was unauthorized, the city legally couldn’t pay the bill without some maneuvering.
“There was no way to retroactively get council approval in a manner that the state auditors would accept,” said city attorney John Hill. “So I advised Clay Stewart to make a formal demand. He did, and we’re going to pay him.”
The council unanimously voted to settle the claim after a closed-door session Tuesday.
“Had the T’s been crossed and I’s dotted and had a change order been submitted,” Hill said, “I have no doubt the council would have approved the payment” without forcing the company to submit a claim.
The unauthorized work involved adding mulch to areas that the city originally had intended to leave bare until the South Gloster widening project was complete. However, the Mississippi Department of Transportation, which provided grant money toward the project, requires those spots be landscaped immediately.
Stewart was told to add mulch temporarily to satisfy MDOT. It will be replaced with foliage later by the city.
The company also performed extra work related to the installation of its irrigation system, because it had to navigate around concrete instead of open ground.
“The funds still came out of the Major Thoroughfare Program,” said Greg Pirkle, chair of the taxpayer-funded committee that has oversight of the road work.
South Gloster has been under construction since the summer of 2011 as part of a $6.5 million project to widen it to five lanes between Garfield south to the new state Highway 6. It’s a little more than halfway complete.
emily.lecoz@journalinc.com