Mounting Cost Overruns Latest Challenges To Bedevil Bulldog Drive Expansion
FlaglerLive | July 10, 2014
The Bulldog Drive expansion was designed to be a beautification project to make the southern entrance to Town Center look grand. But the project has been anything but beautiful in execution, going back to the conflict it triggered with a property owner along the way—a conflict that has proven costly to the city in reputation and dollars—continuing through lesser but irritating conflicts with the school board over drainage-improvement costs, confusion about who actually owns the Bulldog Drive right of way—an unresolved issue with the county—and, since the $4.47 million widening began, cost overruns.
The latest overruns hit the Palm Coast City Council this week.
In December, when the city approved the contract with P&S Paving, the cost included a 4.7 percent “contingency fee” of $200,000. On Tuesday, City Manager Jim Landon asked that the council more than double that contingency to $427,000.
The project is scheduled for completion in early August, in time for school reopening.
“We believe we should be able to get the majority of the work, definitely the traffic and everything on the school property, completed on time, which is the first week in August,” City Manager Jim Landon said. “Still headed in that direction. But we’ve also run into a number of challenges. Whether that was an electrical line in the way or old pipes under Bulldog Drive that we didn’t anticipate where they are.”
Stantec, the engineering company on the job, had “some busts in their quantity estimates,” Landon said, “so the 2 percent (sic.) contingency did not work.” The manager said he was asking “for the full 10 percent contingency. This project is a handful and continues to be a moving target,” cautioning that “if we don’t do this, we’re going to have problems completing this on time.”
“What you’re calling a contingency, Mr. Landon, is that actually a cost overrun?” council member Bill McGuire, a businessman who tends to be impatient with euphemisms, asked.
“Yes. Yes,” Landon said, though the manager said he was meeting with Stantec to see “how much they’re going to contribute” to making up their error.
“You’re going to hold their feet to the fire,” McGuire said.
“We’re going to start today, we’ve already had the conversation,” Landon said. “But we are managing this the best we can and trying to make it happen.”
McGuire and other council members may have forgotten that they’d been in that position before. This latest change is in addition to “change orders”—another term for cost overruns—the city council approved previously in connection with the Bulldog Drive project. Last December, even as it was approving the $4.47 million contract with P&S Paving, the council approved a fourth change order with Stantec, the engineering firm on the project, increasing that contract from an original cost of $348,000 to $845,000.
The dollars are coming out of the Community Redevelopment Agency fund that controls Town Center. The controversial CRA is a perennial thorn in county government’s accounting. It keeps tax revenue owed the county in city coffers, denying the county about $1 million in revenue. But it also enables the city to invest in CRA developments, such as the Bulldog Drive expansion. The CRA is part of the city government.
“You don’t anticipate any litigation, do you, with Stantec?” McGuire asked.
“We are meeting today without attorneys, so that’s the good news,” Landon said, referring to a meeting that took place on Tuesday, and then going on to summarize the innumerable challenges the city has faced as it dug its way through the Bulldog Drive project.. “If we need Mr. Reischmann”—the city attorney—“or actually someone in his office that specializes in construction contracts we will reach out to them as needed, as we always do. But no, I think we sit down and work through this. We deal with P&S Paving, we’re dealing with the school district. There’s a lot of moving parts on this. We worked things out with the Ajrams—”
“And all the moving parts have been moving in sync until we discover that Stantec used the wrong slide rule,” McGuire said.
“That’s just one of those challenges,” Landon said. “We thought we had all the right-of-way issues and that came up. So there’s been a variety of issues, and will continue to be.” He concluded: “This is going to be one of those projects, when it’s all done and school is open and it’s looking good, a lot of smiles. It’s been a headache getting there.”
The $5 million construction cost does not include the design cost or the land-acquisition costs along the way, which, with the latest purchase of the Ajram, properties, add close to an additional $5 million.