SW contractors angry, sewerage project in disarray

Karen HuntManjimup-Bridgetown Times

Questions have been raised about the management of Water Corp’s Bridgetown infill sewerage project which has ground to a halt, leaving subcontractors owed hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The project to connect 265 residential properties to deep sewerage began in March, 2017 and was due to be completed by the end of this month.

While Water Corp says most construction work is finished, it also says only 50 properties are able to connect to the central wastewater system.

“A combination of poor weather, difficult ground conditions, unforeseen design changes and contractual matters have resulted in delays,” South West regional manager John Janssen said.

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“We are working with the principal contractor, Miluc, to manage contractual conditions, aiming to complete work in the next three months. Some reinstatement work may continue after this time.”

Shire president Tony Pratico and chief executive officer Tim Clynch expressed concern, claiming work had stopped while roads and verges were still in a hazardous state.

No work had been done in the past two months, Mr Clynch said, and with the onset of winter rains, some trenches had washed out and sections of footpaths were almost collapsing.

“In the interests of public safety, shire staff are now compelled to carry out daily inspections of the trench lines and take action where required,” he said.

Mr Clynch said he had raised concerns about traffic management with Water Corp throughout the project and the council “continues to request that urgent action is taken”.

Cr Pratico said council representatives met last week with South West MLC Adele Farina to raise their concerns.

Calls to Miluc’s Wangara office seeking comment have not been returned.

The Manjimup-Bridgetown Times on Friday spoke with a number of subcontractors who alleged they were owed a total of hundreds of thousands of dollars and some fear they may not be paid.

“We wouldn’t have given them (Miluc) credit if it wasn’t a Water Corp job,” Ray Jones said.

Another man, who did not want to be named, said he hoped Water Corp would “step up and do the right thing” even though it may not be legally obliged to pay subcontractors.

Subcontractors also raised concerns about Water Corp’s due diligence amid questions about the tender price.

Mr Janssen said he could not provide details because the contract was commercially sensitive but Miluc’s bid complied with all conditions including health, safety and environment.

“I reassure the local community we are continuing to liaise closely with principal contractor, Miluc, to resolve issues raised by its sub-contractors in Bridgetown,” he said.

Sub-contractors could pursue payment from a principal contractor through the payment disputes process under the Construction Contracts Act (2004).

Warren Blackwood MLA Terry Redman said Water Corp had advised him that no payments to Miluc were outstanding.

He had asked for advice from the Government about what it was doing to protect small businesses doing subcontracting work.

“It is very difficult for small regional businesses to remain viable when they are not paid for work undertaken,” Mr Redman said.

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