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PLA Premium: $15.44 Million More for Water Treatment Plant, Engineer Says

First, they ignored their lawyer. Then, they ignored their engineers.

The Springfield Water and Sewer Commission, by a 2-1 vote, imposed a union-only project labor agreement on construction of the $260 million West Parish Water Treatment Plant. No where in a public meeting did the Commission acknowledge the estimated multi-million-dollar cost impact.

The project engineers estimated the PLA will add $15.44 million to the project cost and delay the project by more than two months. We only know this because we submitted a public records request for documents that contain the estimate. It was never discussed at public meetings in December, January and February when the PLA was debated.

“Therefore, with the labor rates provided by SWSC this week and the duration impact previously modeled, the overall estimated cost impact to the project is projected to be approximately $15.44 million above the original Estimated Base Cost[.]”

  • Marc W. Morin, PE, Senior Associate, Hazen and Sawyer, a New York-based engineering firm, in an email marked "Confidential" to Darleen Buttrick, P.E.,  SWSC’s Director of Engineering, on Dec. 21, 2023. Buttrick forwarded it to Joshua Schimmel, SWSC Executive Director, on the same date.

Engineers Estimate
Download PDF • 582KB

The Commissioners ignored the public statements of their own legal counsel that a PLA would not withstand a legal challenge, and now we learn they ignored the cost impact of the PLA.

[Note: The original estimated project construction cost is $260 million. SWCS may use a higher number for the project total, but that includes non-construction costs. The impact of the PLA is on the $260 million construction costs. See page 3 of SWSC RFQ No. 24-22(GC)]


In addition, the PLA will lengthen the project duration by 2.4 months, according to the engineers’ estimates. 

“The duration of the project could be lengthened for several reasons, including difficulty in finding subcontractors, using crews out of union halls may decrease efficiencies, labor shortages will increase the amount of time to complete the project. An analysis of the schedule impact was done and found that in the worst-case scenario, duration of the project could increase by 74 calendar days (2.4 months). Increasing all contracts by this duration adds $2.2M to the project in escalation.”

  • Email from Rose Jesse, CPE, Manager of Cost Estimating, Hazen and Sawyer, , to various colleagues, Nov. 8, 2023, 5:30 p.m.  See page 3 of Exhibit B.  This email was then forwarded to the SWSC on Nov. 30, 3023.

Engineers Estimate of PLA Project Delays
Download PDF • 4.00MB


This is the opposite outcome of the Commission’s stated rationale for the PLA – to avoid project delays that could arise from a union strike and cause the project to miss the September 2028 deadline.

Commissioner Otero at length at the Jan. 11 board meeting about the importance of completing the project on time.  A recording of the meeting or meeting minutes, when available, should show that.  The Commissions spokeswoman’s public comments were similar.

“Commission spokeswoman Jaimye Bartak said the commission is now negotiating the details of the project labor agreement. And the project labor agreement vote came after much research.

“’The decision (to seek the PLA) was based on timeline pressures in terms of resolving the ongoing issue with disinfection byproducts for our customers as quickly as possible, meeting regulatory deadlines, meeting existing funding timelines, and utilizing a local, diverse, and competitive workforce as much as possible,’ she wrote.”


While the majority of the Board of Commissioners ignored the advice of both its own legal counsel and the analysis of its own engineers and was unmoved by Commissioner Rodriguez’s opposition to the PLA, who did it listen to?

SWSC Executive Director Joshua Schimmel’s calendar shows two meetings in the Springfield Mayor’s Office:

  • July 6, 2023, 11:45 a.m.-12:15 p.m.., “Organizer”: Thomas Ashe” with Subject “Mtg with Labor” (See page 121 of Exhibit C-E.)

  • Oct. 31, 2023, 2:30-3:30 p.m., with Thomas Ashe, Norman J. Guz Jr., Theo Theocles, and Colton Andrews. Subject: “PLA Meeting” (See page 122 of Exhibit C-E.)





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