Engineering expenses for subdivision - Posted by Sherry

Posted by DJ on November 03, 2006 at 08:35:17:

The firm asking for full payment before they release info is typical especially when it’s your first time working with them. Get a few under your belt and they will ease up. You might be better off to find a smaller firm that is usually outside the area you are developing, maybe in a smaller neighboring town. They all have to be licensed and certified so you should get the same job probably quicker, maybe cheaper. As far as finding someone you can depend on, welcome to the hunt. You are doing it just like I did. There will be a lot of hit & miss in this business and there will always be someone who lets you down or drops the ball so to speak. It’s the nature of the business. Whether it’s subcontractors, general contractors, development firms or what have you. Due diligence pays off. And checking references doesn’t hurt either. I have found for me personally, it’s better to leave the developing up to the developers. I do mostly custom builds anyway and most folks either already own their land or I direct them to private lots or lots that have already been developed and ready to build on if they want to be in a subdivision. Hope this helps and lots of luck to you!

Engineering expenses for subdivision - Posted by Sherry

Posted by Sherry on November 01, 2006 at 20:37:21:

I have recently received final plat approval for a subdivision just outside of KC. The issue that I am facing is that the engineering firm that I dealt with on designing the drainage system and roads is now trying to charge me about $5,000 more than was originally discussed to complete the project.

I am not sure how to go about handling this…fortunately everything did get completed and approved through the county, but in the deadline countdown the engineer continued to not update the plans to the specifications that were being asked for by the county’s review engineer. In fact, the group that I hired jeopordized the whole process by putting everything off until the last minute, causing me a great deal of stress. One of the senior members of the firm confined that “I told him (engineer) that we needed to get this finished up or she will be suing us because of the problems with timeliness.” No, I did not have a signed contract, I had to switch to this group in the 11th hour to ensure that the county would approve the plans…stupid, stupid.

I took the word of the above senior member who told me that they would charge the original amount for these services that had been quoted to me in a previous bid. That is not happenning. I have asked for just enough information from the drainage study and the road plans to allow me to send out bids for contractor services, and they will not return my calls, etc. I have paid them a portion of their fees, but in no way do I intend on paying the full amount at this point.

Does anyone have any advice on how I can get these people to work with me, short of getting an attorney? I need to get the information to construct the bids ASAP so work can begin before the middle of the winter.


Re: Engineering expenses for subdivision - Posted by BobInIndy…PE

Posted by BobInIndy…PE on November 07, 2006 at 15:47:25:

Sorry for your first experience in this field not being pleasant.
First…you wanted a group of designers that were ‘members of the club’. Otherwise you’d be spending even more to educate the local firm in the ways of the planning commission.
Next, you need to always get an hourly or lump sum estimate.
Finally, you should be able to get a break down of who worked on what for how long and at what rate.
I put up the initials PE…you hired Professional Engineers to do your design.
If you in any way feel that you are being mistreated…report it to the State Board of Registration…be sure to let your local firm know that you know the name of the head of that board.
Professional Engineers don’t like having any blemishes on their records.
They will adhear to professional standards and if they don’t there is the State Board of Registration that will look into it for you.
I doubt that it will go this far…as nearly all engineers value their state registration.
Good luck,
Bob Meister…yes, I’m still a PE in a few states!

Re: Engineering expenses for subdivision - Posted by LK

Posted by LK on November 02, 2006 at 07:19:55:

It doesn?t sound like you have time for legal wrangling. The way I understood your post, you hired this firm to “bail” you out, which they did. You did not get a quote in writing; therefore you are somewhat at their mercy. Engineering fees are typically based on a percentage of the project. Find out what the average percentage is in your area for this type of project. Take that back to the president of the firm and negotiate. You could also ask for a Man-Hour or Man-Day breakdown of their work on your project including their hourly rates, overhead, etc to check their fees.

Good luck with your project.

Re: Engineering expenses for subdivision - Posted by DJ

Posted by DJ on November 01, 2006 at 21:12:40:

Is this your first project of this nature? I don’t mean to sound chauvanistic, but the construction world is still somewhat of a man’s world. The old timers in this business are extremely hard to deal with when it comes to dealing with females and especially green horns (newbies). Not insinuating that you or your company are either of these. Rule of thumb: the “Big Boys” get the priority attention, everyone else can wait. Their regular clientele are their bread & butter and this sounds like a typical case. It’s hard to break into this business and find people you can depend on. Sounds like it’s time to have a sit down, face to face heart to heart with the head cheese of this firm and explain your concerns, your dissatisfaction as well as the possible consequences if he does not reach a satisfactory agreement with you. I think your only other choice will be legal action. Question is, can his firm afford a better lawyer? After all, as you said, there is nothing in writing and you did not sign a contract. Who’s to say which way the judge will see it.
Lesson 1. Get everything in writing.
Lesson 2. Have both parties sign it!

Good Luck!

Re: Engineering expenses for subdivision - Posted by Sherry

Posted by Sherry on November 08, 2006 at 22:08:33:


Valuable lessons learned, for sure. You are absolutely right on all points, although these folks almost didn’t get the design work completed in time to get to the Z&P before my application ran out for the final plat. In fact there were many revisions, the engineer working on the plans was the rookie on the team and didn’t seem to understand what the review engineer was asking for. He would get one or two details on a revised stormwater plan, but forget the other three that were asked for on the same revision list. The review engineer would have to then ask again for the changes, and sometimes they were made, but I know in several instances they had to be asked for more than twice.

I’ve talked with a local engineer who was quite helpful and based on some of his advice, I am going to have a meeting with them suggesting that we work together to come up with a price we can all live with. If they don’t want to compromise I will say, “well then I guess I’ll have to look at other options.” From there I will have an attorney send a letter requesting the time sheets and appropriated work. Not too threatening but enough to let them know I mean it. Last resort is the State Board of Registration…I rather not have to get that nasty, I’d just like to get it resolved and to go forward not feeling like I’m being taken advantage of.

Your idea regarding the registration board is my Ace in the hole. Thank you!!!

Sherry Davis

Re: Engineering expenses for subdivision - Posted by Sherry

Posted by Sherry on November 02, 2006 at 09:15:05:

Thanks for the comments…I will have a meeting with the primaries involved and ask for a breakdown by hours spent on the work. The problem is that they know that they had me over a barrel, and the issue at this point is whether 5 grand is worth it. It is my first project, and it is a man’s world for sure!!! The county Z & P and all of the other groups that work in this business are in “the club”. They are used to working with just a few developers, and don’t have time to help someone just getting started.

Would you normally expect to have to pay an engineer the full fees before you could get partial information…just need to know if I am off base here?

I’m also interested in how you learned to find people that you could depend on…there is still a lot left to do at this point, but the profits are going to be well worth it. I could take the easy way out and just sell to a developer at this point, but I’ve already invested well over a year in just getting the zoning and plat approvals and by selling at this point, I feel that it would dramatically reduce what could be realized from the deal. Needless to say, I don’t think that another subdivision will be my next deal, they are hard work!