Pumps remain waterlogged in litigation

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Ground was broken Feb. 23, 2017 and construction began on the Cane River pumps the first week of March 2017. Four years later, the multi million dollar project is waterlogged in litigation over defective screens. The Natchitoches Times reported at the time that the pumps would allow water from Red River to be pumped into Cane River whenever water levels became too low. The Cane River Waterway Commission contracted with Womack and Sons Construction Group Inc. of Harrisonburg, La., through the state bidding process in November of 2016 to build the Cane River Lake Pump Station.

The target completion date was January 2018. The commission extended the date when engineers learned the discharge rates from the pumping and filter system were lower than projected. In June 2018, Cane River Waterway Commission (CRWC) Chairman Jim Rhodes said there problems with the filter. The filters are to screen for zebra muscles as protection for Cane River and the National Fish Hatchery.

The CRWC filed a suit July 26, 2018. It stated the contractor had not met the deadline nor the specifications outlined in the project and therefore the CRWC sought full restitution. Womack and Sons was contracted for both phases of the project. Phase I (first contract) was the pipeline and Phase II (second contract) was the pumping station. Phase I, at a cost of $1.8 million was completed Oct. 30, 2015, and on or about Nov. 21, 2016, the contract for Phase II, in the amount of $3.9 million was entered. The suit alleges the contractor has not completed the construction as outlined by the second contract.

The pump station was tested Feb. 21, March 27, May 17 and July 2, 2018, and at each testing failed to operate in accordance with the specifications. At the July 2 testing, 14 weeks after the proposed completion date, it was only capable of pumping 10,000 gallons per minute, or one-third of what was required. Since the deadline was not met, nor the required output from the pump station, the liquidated damages clause of the contract was triggered. CRWC is seeking a judgement for all damages as well as attorney’s fees, costs, interest and all other relief allowed by law.

On Sept. 13, 2018, Womack & Sons Construction filed its answer to the Commissions’ original lawsuit.  In its answer, Womack generally denied that it was responsible for any failure of the pump station.

Womack also filed a counterclaim against the Commission seeking full payment of the contract sums allegedly owed under the contract. In addition, Womack sought payment for a specific change order, which Womack alleged was approved in April.  In addition to this counterclaim, they filed a third party claim against its own subcontractor, Tekleen Automatic Filters, Inc. (“Tekleen”), and Tekleen’s bonding company.

Womack generally alleged that the filters provided by Tekleen were not sufficient to meet the specifications of the job that required the filters be capable of allowing a water flow of 30,000 gallons per minute. Alternatively, Womack alleged the specifications were inadequate.

Womack also named the Commission’s engineer, Denmon Engineering Company, Inc., as a third-party defendant. The Commission’s goal remains to obtain a pumping station that will meet the specifications of the job.

Rhodes stated Monday, March 1, that the dispute is “Still in litigation.”

In the Thursday, March 4, 2021, print edition