Construction claims are best handled on a local level, according to a paneldiscussion presented at a construction symposium presented by the UndergroundConstruction Association of SME, titled “Tunneling in Cleveland, Ohio.” Thesymposium was held Sept. 14 at the DoubleTree Hotel in Cleveland.

Speaking as part of a panel discussion, Rick Switalski, design engineer withthe Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD), said, “Partnering andresolving claims comes down to having a good relationship with the contractor.It is our view that claims are OK — they are a normal course of work — and westrive to put the project first.

“We do a lot of work beforehand to get the best available information beforethe contract is bid, and then we work with the contractors to settle disputeswhen they occur. Using this approach, we recently completed a $400 milliontunneling program with only a 1 to 2 percent increase in claims.”

Because of this approach, contractors can limit contingencies in their bids,thereby affording the district a low price. “If I know that an owner is fair, Ican keep my contingencies down and give the owner some [low bids],” said BobKassouf, a Cleveland-based tunneling contractor active in NEORSD projects.

“The key to claims resolution is that the contract knows there is areasonable and speedy resolution,” he added. “It is also helpful have a GBR thatis realistic — not a compendium of disclaimers. When tendering a bid, we takeall of these factors into account.”

Jim Monsees, Parsons Brinckerhoff, added that many times claims are theresult of owners who may be inexperienced with underground construction projectsand who may have unrealistic expectations. “Most owners are not accustomed tobuilding tunnels — they may build one tunnel and not see another in theircareer,” he said.

The panel, which included Tom Peyton (moderator), Parsons Brinckerhoff, BrianGarrod, Hatch Mott MacDonald, and Steve Johnson, Metcalf and Eddy, alsodiscussed design-build and training initiatives in tunneling for young engineersand contractors.

The panel was chaired by Marc Kritzer of NEORSD with Boro Lukajic ofKlohn-Crippen and Bob Ericcson of NEORSD as facilitators. In addition to thepanel, presentations were made by Frank Greenland (NEORSD), Charles Vasulka(NEORSD), Barbara Swafford (Parsons Brinckerhoff), Dennis Ofiara (Robbins Co.),Marco Giorelli (Lovat), Bob Pintabona (MWH), Rob McKim (Parsons Brinckerhoff),Mike Cheetham (NEORSD), Randy Rostas (M&E) and Tom Peyton.

Following the presentations, attendees visited the shop of equipmentmanufacturer The Robbins Co., in nearby Solon, Ohio.

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