Council Unhappy With Progress Of Utility Project

Council Unhappy With Progress Of Utility Project Featured

By / Local News / Wednesday, 15 July 2015 04:00

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - The Carolina Beach Town Council expressed dissatisfaction with the progress of the ongoing Phase 1A infrastructure project on Cape Fear Blvd and surrounding streets during their Tuesday July 14th, meeting.
The project, financed under an $8 million dollar loan in 2014, served to replace aging water, sewer and storm water lines in commercial and residential areas throughout Town as part of a larger phased long range plan. That included improvements to the streetscape design along both Cape Fear Blvd and Canal Drive in the Boardwalk area.
East of Lake Park Blvd, wider sidewalks were installed to 3rd Street. A multi-use bike and walking path is planned from 3rd Street to Dow Road on Cape Fear.
Residents living on Cape Fear Blvd recently began questioning elected leaders about the lack of progress and employees on the job site.
Local resident Tamara Cairns posted her frustration on Facebook and received a response from Mayor Dan Wilcox.
Cairns explained, "I don't complain much, I swear I don't but this Cape Fear Blvd. construction has got to get wrapped up. It is 8:22 a.m. on Friday the 26th of June. AND THERE IS NOTHING BEING WORKED ON ON THE ENTIRE STREET!!! Guys this has just become obscene. It has been going on too long. I have never seen a project of 6 to 7 blocks take so long. Seriously. They are not even burying power lines. There are so many roads closed along Cape Fear people can't get to my house. I have to talk them through the maze. Lite a fire. Grease whatever needs to be greased but get these 20 construction vehicles that sit on our street night after night gone and the road put back together. It is just out of hand. Wrap this up!"
She added, "Also I know there have been set backs, weather, unexpected changes but really this has to be a priority. Can you tell I'm losing it?"
Wilcox responded stating, "Trust me, if there were anything your council members could do to speed completion, we would certainly do it. We know this is frustrating for everyone. As of this morning, the schedule I was given is: Harper, 5th and Raleigh to be complete next week. Cape Fear from 3rd to 6th complete by first week of August. I'm sure that's not what anyone wants to hear, but that is the current schedule."
Anne Pugh lives on Cape Fear Blvd and commented, "It has become so horrible to live on Cape Fear that I had to leave for a week just to clear my head of all the dust and dirt. And why don't you close the street to tourists and people who don't live there? Why isn't there a 5 mph speed limit on the torn up part of the road. The speeding down the dusty street really bothers me."
Gilbert DuBois - Public Utilities Director for the Town - sent an email to Dustin E. Wagner of State Utilities Contractor, the company hired for the project, stating, "We are behind and need to keep pushing. We need to discuss how much time it will take to complete our project. The community is not understanding why they are not seeing people working in Cape Fear or working 6 days a week until this is completed. The manager and I are getting eat up from multiple angles."
Town Manager Michael Cramer delivered an updated schedule for the project to elected leaders on Friday June 26th indicating a completion date of August 9th, for work on 5th St, Harper and Raleigh as well as Cape Fear Blvd from 3rd to 6th Streets. That included paving those roads.
A portion of the project was recently completed between Lake Park Blvd and 3rd Street on Cape Fear Blvd. That portion of the project was behind schedule and was supposed to be completed prior to the Memorial Day holiday weekend. That portion of the road was eventually paved on June 5th.
On Friday July 10th, Cramer wrote to Council, "As all of you are aware, we have had significant difficulty completing the Phase 1 A construction project.  Throughout the life of the project we have found many previously unknown sections of infrastructure, additional conditions that needed repair and improvements that needed to be made to surrounding infrastructure.  In March, I authorized an 88 day extension of time to our contractor to complete the project.  Our hope was that similar unknown conditions would not be found and the project would be completed by June 8, 2015.  This has not been the case.  During this time we found additional inadequate infrastructure in the blocks on Canal from Harper to Cape Fear and on Cape Fear from Canal to 3rd Street.  These issues along with multiple rain delays and NCDOT Construction Delays continued to set the project back.  On Wednesday I received a letter from State Utilities requesting another 78 day extension to complete the project.  I have attached both letters so you can see what items have contributed to this request.  Although it pains me to say it, the contractor is not at fault for these delays and I recommend authorizing the second extension.  The extension will take us to a project completion date of August 26th."
Cramer explained, "Along with this bad news also comes additional bad news.  The last section of Cape Fear Blvd from 3rd Street to 6th Street was evaluated several years ago and since that time the storm drainage infrastructure in this area has become increasingly distressed.  We have recently identified multiple joint failures, tree root penetration and two sections of collapsed pipe.  The storm water replacement that was included for this section of roadway was limited a few hundred feet of pipe and a couple of catch basins.  Approximately 50 % of the storm water infrastructure will need to be replaced in order to install the proposed multi use path on the Southside of Cape Fear Blvd. If we were to correct all of the storm water problems that have been identified it will cost between $300,000 and $500,000 to replace.  It will also extend the completion of the project approximately 44 days and the project will not be complete until October 9, 2015.  The costs of these improvements were not included in our installment financing for the project and we would require a budget adjustment from the Utility Fund Fund Balance to complete the work."
During the Council's July 14th, meeting Mayor Dan Wilcox questioned whether "Change orders" for various additional work had been documented. Cramer said he wasn't sure if that was a requirement of the contract.
The contractor has submitted letters to the Town indicating work performed outside of the original scope of the contract.
Wilcox said, "I would be shocked if we went into a contract without a requirement that adjustments in time or cost would be handled by change orders. It would have to be approved by both parties. In that case, when you experience a situation where you have extra work to do, you say ok I have to lay another 100 feet of pipe, it will take me five days. You fill out the change order. It will cost $5,000 and it's five days and the parties agree to it, accept it and it's a matter of record. You adjust the project time accordingly. You don't wait until the end of the project and go back and say we'll we had all these verbal understandings so yeah we are 30 days past the date but now we want extra project time."
Councilman Steve Shuttleworth addressed Cramer saying,  "We had an eleven month contract... with this extension [they] are asking for a total of five and a half months on top of eleven. What I'm seeing and experiencing in the public is the frustration of the length of time it has taken us from 3rd Street to 6th Street."
He said, "I think everyone kind of gave us a little bit of a pass down by the Boardwalk and Canal Drive and understood storm water and we took some time off to look at a one-way street and we had some design issues down there... and it disrupted businesses so we worked with them. Right now, it's the residential section of Town."
He said, "The push back that I'm hearing in the community is, what in the world is taking so long to go three blocks from 3rd Street to 6th Street" and, "If we are going to do it, the idea was to do it one time so if we have to do storm water, let's do the storm water. You say that's another 30 days so we are going to be out of there... first of October."
Cramer informed Council that a state grant funded multi-use path to be installed during the project would now take six months of review by the North Carolina Department of Transportation before work could begin.
Shuttleworth said, "That's totally unacceptable. If that means you need the Mayor or the Council to get on the phone and start calling NCDOT... and say wait a minute, you guys gave us a grant and you can't delay us in the middle of a project."
He said, "I'm just mortified that we would even think about doing storm water to October 1st and then maybe six or eight months from now you'll see red, yellow equipment back down there digging up and laying... I need to understand, what is the legitimate reason for extensions."
He said, "What is State Utilities Contractor willing to do to expedite this deal. It's getting to the point you can't go to the market because everyone comes up to you and ask what's taking so long. People at the Senior Center saying 'there they are again, same hole."
Wilcox said, "I know this is 100 year old infrastructure, but all of the delays haven't been due to infrastructure. First of all, a contractor in the utility business, when they go in to replace 100 year old infrastructure they know to build extra time in for hidden conditions and unforseens. That time should have been built in. They know to build in time for holidays... they know to build in time for weather delays. That's standard in the industry. So I have to discount a lot of those delays right off the bat because they should have built that into the contract."
Wilcox said, "I asked you to go to the contractor and appeal to him. Blame it on Council, blame it on the Mayor, blame it on whoever you want to that we are upset, the citizens are upset, if they want to continue to do business with the Town, they need to come up with a creative solution. You can work 10 hour days. Work Saturdays. Bring in an extra crew. They are the contractor, come up with a solution. They came up with zero. They came back with another 88 day extension."
Wilcox said he's watched the progress and, "There wouldn't be anyone there at 10 o'clock. Two guys would show up and piddle around a little bit. Another guy would show up in a truck and talk to them for an hour. They would leave early."
Cramer offered several options to the Council.
Shuttleworth said he was in favor of doing the additional storm water line work and finishing the section from 3rd Street to 6th Street including the multi-use path. That would result in losing approximately $60,000 to $80,000 of the grant funding for the path. Then finish the multi-use path from 6th Street to Dow Road during the next portion of the project would be completed in February. He said by that time the grant contract should be approved and the remaining portion of the path could be installed at the end of the project.
The Council agreed with Shuttleworth.
The penalty for the contractor being late without an extension is $500 per day. With the extension until October for the portion between 3rd and 6th Streets, no penalties will he incurred.

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