The City of Delta broke ground on the north portion of the alternate truck route, confident that by the time the general contractor was ready to move to the south end, all rights-of-way would be secured and the railroad exchange would be finalized. Now that optimism is not only proving unjustified, it's also likely to cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars.
During a project update last week, city manager Justin Clifton and public works director Jim Hatheway touched on all that's been accomplished before delivering the bad news — the project is 150 days behind schedule and contingency funds are gone. The city had set aside $1,080,938 for contingencies, but is already $407,000 in the hole before finalizing contract extensions with the contractor and the project engineer. The city is also facing increases in costs for steel, oil and other materials that have occurred with the passage of time.
Despite widespread rumors, the city manager insists the city will not run out of money and will not leave the project unfinished.
"We're going to finish the project," Clifton told council members. "The question is what the citywide fund will look like when we're done. Without question, we need to be careful. To the extent we dip into that fund to finish the project, those will be reserve balances not available for other projects."
Clifton noted the 2014 budget includes over $1 million in projects to be paid from the citywide fund. The city is also seeking a grant for a stormwater project that will require a $500,000 match. All those projects could be placed on hold, if necessary.
"With all of the backup plans we have it's just not going to happen that we run out of money and can't finish the project. You can tell that to anybody with confidence."
He also assured councilmembers that the city is addressing concerns local businesses have expressed about access. Some of those businesses are on the uncompleted Gunnison River Drive, but others, like Callaway Packing, are further removed.
"Honestly you can't do this kind of project without impact, but rest assured we are in contact with business owners that perceive impacts and are moving forward as best we can to address them," Clifton said.
He said the city had anticipated finishing Gunnison River Drive by the end of the year, but between cold weather and the challenge of setting up a batch plant on site, that just didn't happen.
"It was not our intent to leave some of that work unfinished for the winter, but sometimes you just don't have a crystal ball," Clifton said. "The only thing we could have done was hedge our bets and get even less done.
"But when you've got a general contractor on site, it's really smart to get every piece of work done that you can because any work you don't have done Monday you're going to pay to have done Tuesday. That was our mindset."
Unfortunately, Gunnison River Drive will not be fully opened until work crews get back to full speed after a winter slowdown that began earlier this month. The slowdown will be noticeable, public works director Jim Hatheway warned.
Between now and the end of March Hamon, the general contractor, will have a skeleton crew on site while subcontractors finish up odds and ends.
When April comes along, Hatheway said, the city's goal is to be able to turn the south half of the project over to the contractor.
"We want to be able to resume work and make progress every day," Clifton said.
The "race to the finish line" will culminate in late summer or early fall, he added.
After explaining some of the challenges encountered along the way, he said, "Getting the project right has been more important than getting it done now, at any cost. We've taken that approach and here we are — ready to move forward and get the project done in 2014."
One of the biggest challenges has been the land exchange with Union Pacific on the south half of the project. "We haven't been able to turn the south half of the project loose because we haven't concluded negotiations," he explained. "But we got word today we have a definitive path forward. I wish it had gone a lot faster, frankly, a lot easier, but this is what it looks to negotiate with the railroad.
"As you would expect of a project of this size, we've had some challenges," Clifton concluded. "Some of them are behind us, but some are still in front of us."
After the extension contractors have been nailed down, a change order will be presented to city council. Some of the new dollars are already in the 2014 budget, Clifton said. "We also have yet to capture some of the savings we've identified in the project."
Still, supplemental funds will be needed he warned councilmembers.
From the beginning, Clifton said, it was understood city funds would be needed to complete the project.
"Start to finish this is really a $33 million project," he said. "Bonding was two-thirds of it, and we had generous support from DOLA.
"But with a project this big, one or two things go not according to plan and you need to cover it. Some of the big things we did in the beginning — areas we didn't compromise in the beginning — left us a little less room for error but those are the things that are going to pay off for years and years and years once the project is done. We're doing the project the right way."blog comments powered by Disqus