They say when it rains, it pours. When it comes to road projects, when it pours, it brings cost overruns as well. Case in point? The H Street road reconstruction project.
Blaine city council was asked to authorize an extra $259,019 charge from Colacurcio Brothers, the construction company that is doing the project. The change order includes $137,000 for additional flaggers and spotters needed because of bad weather, safety reasons and to minimize delays according to Larry Leicht of Reichhardt & Ebe Engineering. The extra 3,200 hours of spotter time was charged at an hourly rate of $42.
An additional $122,000 went for crushed rock, extra gravel and unanticipated landscaping. Leicht pointed out that while the overrun costs seem unusually high, the project was a very difficult one involving many underground facilities whose locations were unknown, working in tight spaces and construction during a particularly wet winter.
“For the challenges we’ve had on this project, this isn’t really bad. I would have been surprised if Colacurcio had been able to do this project without overruns,” Leicht said. He added that prior to opening the bids, the estimated construction cost was $1,976,000, which is within 3 percent of the final projected cost. Previously, there had been an additional $76,419 in work change orders.
Council member Harry Robinson appeared unconvinced by the reasons for the overruns. “Didn’t we just have a conversation with the same contractor who had a huge overrun on flagging on another project?” he asked. In response, public works director Steve Banham said both projects had been bid on around the same time and before the bad weather made its presence felt. “If Colacurcio was here, they say it wasn’t their problem, it was because the engineer didn’t estimate enough flagging hours,” he said, adding, “Long after the memory of what you paid is gone, the quality of the job will remain.”
“We should have a strong discussion with the engineer,” Robinson groused. “That’s a lot of money to go from $1.6 to $2 million. To me, $400,000 means eight policemen. I feel I’m responsible for the city’s money,” he concluded.
In a 7-0 vote, council approved the change order at its August 8 meeting.