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Measure of Frustration: Faulty electricity meters costing harbor staff time

Electricity meters for each slip, a new addition to the harbor since its reconstruction, are not functioning as promised. Del Norte Triplicate / Bryant Anderson
Electricity meters for each slip, a new addition to the harbor since its reconstruction, are not functioning as promised. Del Norte Triplicate / Bryant Anderson
Although the ribbon was cut back in March for the Crescent City Harbor reconstruction project, there have been some kinks to smooth out in the $54 million project before the facilities are completely transferred into the harbor’s ownership.

“There are still glitches being worked out like in all big projects,” said Crescent City Harbor Commissioner Scott Feller. 

Harbor commissioners have been irked by the fact that an automatic meter reading system for tracking electricity used by individual dock tenants has not been working properly. The system was designed so that harbor staff could monitor the electricity being used by each tenant by any computer in the harbor office, but instead harbor district staff have had to walk the docks daily to read the meters manually.

“I’m doing physical readings because it’s the only thing I can trust,” said Harbormaster/CEO Charlie Helms during a Harbor Commission meeting this month.

“It’s time-consuming,” said Commissioner Ron Phillips. “When you spend money on something that is supposed to save you time, you want it to work properly.”

Metered electricity for dock tenants is a new addition to Crescent City Harbor, helping the port pay down the $5.4 million loan received to complete the reconstruction project that was spurred by tsunamis in 2006 and 2011 that destroyed the port. 

Harbor commissioners said that the district is not losing money on the faulty metering system because the manual readings are expected to be accurate, but the glitch is costing staff time.

Helms has assured the Harbor Commission that Dutra Construction, the project general contractor, is working diligently with its sub-contractors and harbor staff to fix the problem. 

 

Until every aspect of the harbor reconstruction project is squared away with Dutra, the ownership of the new harbor facilities will not transfer from Dutra to the district. “It could be as much as a year before we are completely dissolved of Dutra owning it and it’s turned over to us,” Phillips said.

The dollar figure that Dutra will be paid for one aspect of the reconstruction project, outer boat basin dredging and rock slope repair, was renegotiated earlier this month after Dutra requested a price adjustment to reflect the amount of time that the company spent dredging the harbor. 

Dutra was originally to be paid based on the amount of dredged material hauled away by scow, but since the bedrock bottom of the harbor was shallower than anticipated it took more time to remove less material from the rocky bottom than expected.

On a 4-1 vote with Commissioner James Ramsey dissenting, the Commission approved Dutra’s “request for equitable adjustment” in the amount of $1.86 million for the outer boat basin dredge and slope protection repair project.

Although Dutra has done a good job overall, Ramsey said, he cited issues like the faulty meter reading system and other issues with the project’s progression, which he chose not to specify, for reasons why he voted against the price adjustment.

“It has to deal with two years of frustration dealing with them every Monday afternoon,” Ramsey said.

Other commissioners said they voted for the price adjustment so the project can be finalized.

“We just want to get things settled,” Phillips said.

Reach Adam Spencer at  This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

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