Dirty work comes at a premium

ACCC pond project turns pricey

By RICHARD LUKEN
Register Reporter

Register/Richard Luken
Huge mounds of dirt still sit south of a pond owned jointly by Allen County Community College and several homeowners in Melody Acres in northeast Iola.

A group of local homeowners hope a pile of dirt is anything but dirt cheap.
The dirt, scooped out of a pond owned jointly by Allen County Community College and homeowners in Melody Acres, will be sold to help pay the cost of fixing up the pond.
Iolans Ken Shetlar, Terry Sparks and Mark Donnell, each of whom own a portion of the pond, approached ACCC trustees Thursday with hats in hand.
The residents had approached the college a year ago about sharing costs to clear out the pond in order to prevent water from growing stagnant due to improper circulation and eliminate seepage from the pond dam.
The college agreed then to pay up to $8,000, or half of the expected $16,000 cost.
However, the amount of silt in the bottom of the pond — as much as 8 feet in some places — coupled with an unusually wet summer and fall, pushed the actual cost of the pond renovation to more than $38,000.
The homeowners asked the college to pay the added $22,000 because most of the necessary work to rebuild the pond came on the college-owned part of the property.
“It appears we have a problem,” Trustee Larry Manes replied, for two reasons. First, the college cannot pay for a project or goods in excess of $10,000 without first going through a bidding process.
The homeowners, who offered to administer the clean-up, handled the bidding process in this case.
And, Manes said, the college agreed to help fund the pond work in September, before trustees knew the state was going to pull more than 12 percent of its funding for higher education.
“Had we known we were going to lose that much money, I don’t know that we would even have agreed to the $8,000,” Manes said.
Donnell noted that when the homeowners first brought up the idea of sprucing up the pond, they were given verbal quotes in the $12,000 range, which is when they first approached the college.
Getting a written estimate was much more difficult, Donnell said, because most contractors were hesitant to put a final number on what could have been found under the pond’s surface.
Ultimately, the group received a $16,000 bid from Iolan Morris Dible, with the provision that the costs could rise once Dible began the work and realized the amount of silt that needed to be removed.
A series of rains while the work was ongoing in August and September exacerbated the situation, Sparks added, to the point that Dible was required to bring in a large excavator to clear out “the soupy mess” that filled the pond’s bottom.
“But what do you do at this point?” Sparks and Shetlar asked the trustees in a letter filed prior to the meeting. “We felt we had no choice but to see this through.”

THE SCOOPED-OUT dirt now sits in large piles immediately south of the pond. The dirt must first dry completely before it can be removed.
“Our goal is to not leave it like that,” Shetlar said. “We just want a nice recreation area for the kids.”
Completing the project — removing the dirt, reshaping the contour of the pond dam’s outside surface and planting grass seed — will add another $1,500 or so to the price tag, Dible told trustees.
Trustees met privately with attorney Robert Johnson for 15 minutes before deciding, 6-0, to pay only the previously agreed-upon $8,000, and giving the homeowners the rights to the remaining dirt.
Shetlar is hopeful the piles of fertile topsoil and silt can be sold.
“We certainly hope you can get a lot for the dirt,” Manes said.
The college will pay $4,000 up front, then the remaining $4,000 after the clean-up is finished.