KODIAK — The cost of Kodiak’s landfill expansion is rising, thanks to design changes and vacant positions in the borough engineering department, the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly learned during a Thursday work session.

At issue is the third phase of the landfill expansion, which involves the construction of a plant to treat runoff from the landfill pit currently under construction. Engineering firm CH2M Hill has estimated that permitting and design for the plant will cost approximately $743,000.

The borough’s original contract with CH2M Hill, signed in 2007, was for about $392,000, but the contract has been repeatedly extended as the project has changed, explained borough engineering and facilities manager Woody Koning.

“The regulations have changed over time, which increased cost,” he said. “The scope has changed.”

A water treatment plant was not included in original designs for the landfill expansion and was settled on only within the last few months.

The borough engineering department also has two unfilled positions, Koning said, and that means CH2M Hill has taken on permitting and grant application duties.

In total, CH2M Hill’s landfill contract has grown to $2.2 million since 2007, if the cost of the newest extension is included.

That amount and the latest allocation alarmed some assembly members, who questioned whether the expense is needed.

“They basically have an open checkbook is the way I look at that,” said assembly member Tuck Bonney. “It really bothers me having an open-ended contract.”

“Some of that cost in these numbers is because we don’t have (those positions) filled,” responded assembly member Jerrol Friend.

Koning said that in initial discussions, CH2M Hill listed charges of $200 per hour for its top engineers and managers, but borough staff contested those fees. The engineering firm then lowered them to $177 per hour.

Assembly member Mel Stephens pointed to a clause in the contract that indicates the new charge doesn’t include engineering services once construction starts.

“I will be most pleasantly surprised if it comes in under $742,000,” he said.

In other business, the assembly discussed proposed renovations to the borough’s projects office. The office is expected to serve as construction office space during the renovation of Kodiak High School.

Koning and borough manager Rick Gifford presented a plan that would allow students from the high school’s construction classes to perform much of the work.

Koning said the plan would be cheaper than hiring a contractor and would allow students to learn in a real-world environment.

“It’s kind of a win-win,” he said.

Contact Mirror editor James Brooks at editor@kodiakdailymirror.com.

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