Engineer says new $2M lake will hold water
Wednesday, August 20, 2014 1:00 PM
The Board of Supervisors' 16-acre recreational lake project in rural northern Madison County will likely exceed its original $2.2 million price tag, but it will hold water, County Engineer Rudy Warnock said Monday, despite an abundance of sand, tons of which are being removed.
An updated progress report with cost estimates is due to the Board of Supervisors by the next meeting on Sept. 2.
Warnock wasn't holding back frustrations over criticism of the project during a half-hour presentation at the regular meeting where he even went so far as to ask one supervisor critical of the lake if he had an engineering degree.
The jab came after District 3 Supervisor Gerald Steen, a more recent critic of the park project, asked about soil testing done at the site. Steen was asking the difference between boring and test pits. Warnock asked if Steen had P.E. (Professional Engineer) behind his name, and noted that he went to school for the title.
Warnock also took some jabs at members of the media in attendance when he began handing out documents to supervisors.
"I'm gonna leave copies of this in a file folder so the press doesn't get confused at what they're looking at," he said.
Tensions were high as the Sulphur Springs Park discussion came four days after a Madison County Journal report showed initial soil testing was never done for the actual 16-acre lake bed, only the dam.
This revelation followed recent discussions over what to do with a half million cubic yards of sand dug out of the lakebed.
The sand, Warnock says, was never a surprise, despite multiple county personnel saying otherwise in previous meetings.
Supervisors this summer initially thought they were going to have to pay to have the sand hauled away, but the Ross Barnett Reservoir called after seeing a report in the Journal and said they'd take the sand for beaches.
The initial soil report was done in 2010 by Burns, Cooley Dennis Inc., (BCD) a geotechnical firm based in Ridgeland, for the dam. It revealed amounts of sandy dirt and included suggestions for building the dam to fight seepage and permeability issues.
The 2010 report was the only report that appeared on the board's minutes and was the only expenditure to Burns Cooley Dennis by the county regarding the project.
However, on Monday, Warnock said testing had been done on the lake bed itself and said it was ridiculous to think he would build a lake without first testing the soil to see if it would hold water.
"I would have never drawn a lake...if I did not know full and well we could build a lake there," Warnock said. "Anybody that says otherwise doesn't know me well."
In a stack of documents produced by Warnock for the board and public - mostly old minutes from supervisor meetings - was a copy of the latest BCD study done on Aug. 6. The report was comprised of data from 24 test pits.
Warnock said there was only one site of the 24 that had more sandy material and it could be addressed in one day's work.
That report, however, was titled "Number 3" and done just two weeks ago, over a year since work had been going on at the site. Warnock also told the board he authorized BCD to re-evaluate the site in late-June, but the report was dated August.
Warnock did not hand out any second report by BCD that is believed to have been conducted in 2011.
A public records request has been filed by the Journal for the alleged second report, which does not appear on board minutes or expenditure reports.
An attempt to contact Warnock was also not successful as of press time.
The county engineer spent much of his presentation giving a detailed timeline of the park's history, from its creation in 2010 to its eventual green-lighting in 2013.
He said in that time there were design changes, a 14-month battle with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over bureaucracy that resulted in $200,000 overruns, and an initial rejection of a $500,000 bid to build the lake.
"We certainly didn't think it would cost half-a-million dollars to build a lake," he said.
He said bad weather this year and costs outside of his control, such as overtime for the road department, are what has made the park costlier than anticipated.
"I never lost any sleep because I did my job," he said. "There might have been some misstatements made by some personnel or people (regarding the excess sand)."
District 5 Supervisor Paul Griffin has spearheaded the project since its beginning and defended Warnock and the possible cost overruns.
"Thanks for all the hard work here," he said. "Budgets are not met all the time. There's different situations that change costs, just like the Corps of Engineers."
Steen asked Warnock if they would finish under or within budget.
"I doubt it," Warnock said. "We're probably gonna have some more money to finish the project."
To date, over $1 million has been spent. There is $770,000 budgeted that can only be used for road work at the park.