Responsibility, and ultimately the cost, of a damaged water line was a topic of discussion Monday morning when the Marion County commissioners met at the courthouse in Palmyra.

Responsibility, and ultimately the cost, of a damaged water line was a topic of discussion Monday morning when the Marion County commissioners met at the courthouse in Palmyra.

Representatives of the Ralls County Public Water District No. 1 are adamant that responsibility for the damage to their water line, which just east of the new Bear Creek bridge that is nearing completion at Withers Mill, lies with the project’s contractor, Chester Bross Construction, and project engineer, MECO Engineering. In contrast, Bross and MECO personnel contend they are not to blame.

The 6-inch water line was “nicked” during construction of the bridge, which is located west of Hannibal. The water district contends that it did not receive final plans for the project until after the damage had occurred to the water line and thus did not know exactly how deep the water line needed to be. Jim Bensman of MECO says the water district went ahead with relocating the water line before final plans were completed and indicated that it was buried deep enough to not be an issue.

“The pipe was fully functional before the project and now it is not because of the project,” said Luke Drullinger, the water district’s manager.

“From our perspective we just wanted a little better coordination on the front end,” said Mark Bross of Klingner and Associates, who was at the meeting on behalf of the water district. “If we had gotten that final set of plans back after they were completed we would probably have said, ‘Oh, we need to do something,’ because it wasn’t clear to us when we were first looking at it (preliminary plans). We would have contacted Jim and said, ‘Look we’re going to have conflict here.’”

“I don’t want to be a pain in the butt. You wouldn’t see my face ever if it hadn’t happened how it did,” added Drullinger. “It’s not our fault.”

Also unwilling to accept blame was Bensman.

“Chester Bross and MECO Engineering strongly feel and believe we know we have no wrongdoing on this,” he said. “We provided some information, but the water district moved ahead and made a decision on their own to do something before we could coordinate anything after that.”

The projected cost of burying the water line deep enough is $15,000.

A potential solution to the problem could be the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT).

“Ultimately the water line needs to be relocated. I’m going to recommend that we speak with MoDOT and see if we can do this as a change order and include it,” said Bensman.

Bensman added that MoDOT’s help is not guaranteed.

“Being after the fact and not a bid item MoDOT may reject it,” he said.

If MoDOT declines to help there is a good chance the matter will wind up before the commissioners again in the near future.

Reach reporter Danny Henley at danny.henley@courierpost.com