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Unhappy with street work, Paris City Council delays final payment to contractor

With a Louisiana company already three months overdue on a water line replacement project, the Paris City Council has decided to make the company wait another two weeks before getting the last of its money.

City manager John Godwin
City manager John Godwin

“There are several issues, and one of them is the poor quality of work by the contractor, and also the fact that they are late,” city manager John Godwin told the council Monday night.

City attorney Kent McIlyer said the city has no choice but to pay the money, which is for materials and work that was not originally called for but proved necessary as work proceeded.

“We’ve got their money, we know we owe it to them, and we’re going to have to give it to them eventually, but they were in no hurry to fix my town so I’m in no hurry to give ‘em my money,” he said.

The council agreed, voting unanimously to delay until the next meeting on April 28 to OK the $18,383.02 that McInnis Brothers Construction, Inc., of Minden, La., requested above and beyond its $1.8 million contract.

The company began the project last July and was due to finish in January. Work still continues, mostly because of a 20-inch cast iron water line that nobody has found a way to cut off.

But the council’s unhappiness with the project has more to do with the streets — especially on Church Street and East 3rd Street — that were nowhere as good after the work was done as when work started.

A local asphalt contractor was hired last week to re-do the street work.

“I’m not too sympathetic with giving them $18,000 — Because of the problems they’ve caused. Anybody who’s driven Church Street knows what I’m talking about,” District 3 councilman John Wright said.

“I feel pretty much the same way,” District 2 councilwoman Sue Lancaster said. “We’re still going to have to address how it looks and how to fix it, and that cost has to come from somewhere.”

Godwin said as the council proceeds on its $45 million bond issue to replace deteriorating water and sewer lines, it may need to revisit “how much of the bond money you want to use for roads and how much you want to use for actual utilities.”

Godwin reminded the council that last summer KSA Engineers — in recommending a $45 million program of work — submitted an estimate for $15 million to replace water and sewer lines and $30 million for new streets afterward.

In particular, Mayor AJ Hashmi objected at the time, saying residents were promised that $45 million would be spent on replacing old water and sewer lines. He said new streets were not necessary, and whatever was spent on them should come from other funds.

“So you’ll know what’s coming, when you take out a road, it costs a lot of money to put it back the way it was,” Godwin said.

“Now, I’m not going to say they’d look like this (on streets replaced by McInnis). This was horrible. This was unacceptable, and everybody knows that,” Godwin said.

Hashmi cut off discussion on how much money should be spent on roads, saying it was not on the agenda.

At a late penalty of $150 per day, McInnis Brothers Construction now would owe $12,600 in penalties as of Monday for its 84 days behind schedule.

McInnis asked that 57.5 of the late days be excused because of delays beyond the company’s control, such as the December ice storm.

“After reviewing the list, staff can only recommend 45 additional days be added to the contract,” city engineer Shawn Napier said.

That still leaves the company still 39 days late, which would cost the company about $6,000 in penalties. Any resulting late penalty will be deducted from the money due on the change order request, Napier said.

The major outstanding problem with the project is an old 20-inch cast iron pipe that neither the contractor nor city crews have figured out how to take out of service, Napier said.

The project is not part of the city’s infrastructure bond package. McInnis was awarded the Phase I work on water replacement work financed by a low-interest loan from the Texas Water Development Board Drinking Water State Revolving Fund in the amount of $3.4 million.

“The past few weeks have been spent trying to find a way to turn off valves or find the unmarked lines that are preventing this line from being taken out of service,” Napier said.

“We’ve gone back and even talked to 25- and 30-year employees in the water and sewer department — people working with the city back in the 70s — and they said they couldn’t kill that pipe in the 70s either,” he said.

Napier said he would like to end the contract with McInnis and use city staff to continue working on the mystery of what to do about the 20-inch water line that has proved so problematical.

“It may take us into the summer to get that done, but I don’t see a need for us to hold onto this contract,” Napier said.

McInnis was the low bidder in April 2013 on the replacement of water lines along East Third Street from Henderson Street to Sherman Street; along Church Street from Washington Street to Hearon Street: and on Deshong, Lewis and Stone streets west of Paris Regional Medical Center.

The company underbid Barney Bray Construction and Harrison Walker & Harper, both of Paris.

By Charles Richards, eParisExtra

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