Series of street project setbacks has city concerned

Series of street project setbacks has city concerned

The city of Beaumont has encountered a few snags in their ongoing road projects, at least one of which could result in a lawsuit against the engineering firm, who did not include sidewalks that were compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The original contract bid of more than $6 million for the Seventh Street project approved in April 2013 has jumped by more than half a million dollars. According to the council agenda, the first change order seems to have been the bulk of the contract increase — that of approximately $555,226.75 approved in January of this year after crews discovered numerous unforeseen utility lines and other infrastructure underneath the aging Seventh Street.

In their weekly meeting on Tuesday, June 3, City Council members approved the second change order for the project in the amount of $155,887. According to the council agenda, officials say that change order was needed due to ADA-compliant sidewalks that were never included in the original plans by Bob Shaw Consulting Engineers.

“I understand the first change order was necessitated because there were lines that could not be identified that we ran across,” said Ward II Councilman Mike Getz of 7th Street. “But I’d like an explanation on why this change order is necessary from the original contract when I presume we knew at the outset that we were going to have to be ADA compliant with whatever things go out there when we started tearing it up.”

City Manager Kyle Hayes pointed out that it was not the contractor’s fault that Bob Shaw Consulting Engineers did not include the ADA-compliant sidewalks in the original Seventh Street plans and the city of Beaumont will likely take the issue to the city’s legal department.

“It’s something I talked to (Public Works Director Patrick Donart) about this morning and I asked him to talk to the city attorney because the question I asked is why wasn’t this caught earlier? Who’s responsibility was this?” Hayes asked. “At that time, he believes it was the engineering firm that did the work for us. If that’s true, I think that’s something we ought to pursue or the council ought to consider.”

In a later interview, Councilman Getz said council members will likely be holding an executive session on the matter in the coming weeks and will almost certainly file a claim against Bob Shaw Consulting Engineers to recoup some money.

According to Donart, not only did Bob Shaw not include $95,000 worth of replacement concrete for the replacement of commercial driveways on the torn up Seventh Street, but the engineer also “omitted” at least 2,000 linear feet of ADA compliant retaining walls for sidewalks that intersect commercial and residential driveways.

“The largest aspect of that change order was $95,000. The reason for the $95,000 they have in the bid documents for the removal of the driveway. They omitted putting in any item to replace it ... with anything,” Donart said. “If you’re removing concrete, you should be placing concrete back, and there’s just no bid item for the replacement of the commercial driveways. So, the largest aspect of it is to allow for that. That’s an error, yes. But some things you end up having to pay for anyway, and that’s one we would have to pay for anyway. The second largest one is the $41,400 and that has more to do with the ADA.”

Although officials would not directly state a lawsuit was in the works, Donart said all options will be presented to City Council members.

“That’ll be something that we discuss in Executive Session,” Donart said.

Bob Shaw Consulting Engineers did not respond to The Examiner’s request for comment.

Concord and TXDOT

The city is also dealing with a major series of setbacks on the $11 million Concord Road project managed by the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT). The total cost of the project is approximately $11,361,627 with at least $7.65 million coming from federal transportation dollars and the City of Beaumont’s portion of about $3.7 million, according to Donart.

Spokeswoman Sarah Dupre said the setbacks in the project were due mostly to issues with the contractor, Tradeco Infraestructura Inc. She said utilities were not moved along the widened Concord Road until recently.

“We’ve been told that all the utilities have been moved, but we’re still waiting on one letter to confirm that,” Dupre said. “We have to have that in the paperwork in writing. Hopefully we’ll have that last letter (Wednesday, June 4).

But Donart said it was much more than just utility poles and other infrastructure not having been moved that has slowed the project. At Tuesday’s council meeting, Donart said Tradeco fired its entire workforce on the project, at least 200 people.

“Sometimes that’s a business decision,” Donart said. “One of the things that did happen, one of their project superintendents, he ended up passing away. He had a heart attack on the job, in the job trailer. And other things came to light and from a corporate perspective, they felt like it was better to clean house.”

Dupre said Tradeco replaced its entire workforce after discovering improperly installed drainage boxes.

“The contractor did incorrectly install some of the drainage and so that was one reason why we did state that we were unhappy with some of the work they had done,” Dupre said. “So after we talked to the contractor about that, that’s when they did get a new superintendent and get some new staff.”

Despite the mass firings and infrastructure installation flubs, Dupre said Tradeco has promised to complete the project by the contracted completion date of June 2015. If Tradeco goes over that contracted completion date, Dupre said damages could be assessed by TXDOT each day the project continues.

“Now if they go over the amount of contract working days, there will be a damage rate that will be taken away,” Dupre said. “A liquidated damage rate of $1,285 will be assessed for every day the contractor exceeds the 364 contract working days. ... Keep in mind these are working days.”

All setbacks aside, Dupre said the crews were able to complete some work on the project.

“The contractor has been able to do some work in the meantime,” she said. “The new bridge over there behind the Toys-R-Us, they were able to build that without having to worry about utilities and they were able to work on widening some of the roadway.”

Donart said Tradeco’s new superintendent on the Concord Road project is competent.

“They hired a very good project manager,” Donart said. “Do I think that he can do that if given the resources? Yes. He can do what they’re saying they want to have done, provided weather helps them.”

Sandy Hodge, owner of Concord Road Window Screens, said workers have not been present on Concord Road since the beginning of the year and is concerned as business has slowed since construction started.

“They never came back after Christmas,” she said.

A new bridge sits in front of Hodge’s home/business and veers west toward Highway 69, a literal bridge to nowhere but a staging area stacked high with massive, new and once-new drainage boxes. To the right, the existing Concord Road meanders on its usual route toward Highway 105.

If it wasn’t for her muddy driveway, Hodge said she wouldn’t mind the lack of competent road crews.

“My husband, we have a tractor back there that has a front end loader on it,” she said. “He fixed it.”

As she looks at a busy existing Concord Road at sundown, Hodge still lamented the lack of work that’s been completed.

“Somebody’s got to put a fire under them,” she said.