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Mounting Cost Overruns Latest Challenges To Bedevil Bulldog Drive Expansion

| July 10, 2014

'Getting there has been a headache,' Palm Coast City Manager Jim Landon said of the Bulldog Drive expansion. (© FlaglerLive)

‘Getting there has been a headache,’ Palm Coast City Manager Jim Landon said of the Bulldog Drive expansion.
(© FlaglerLive)

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.

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15 Responses for “Mounting Cost Overruns Latest Challenges To Bedevil Bulldog Drive Expansion”

  1. Steve Wolfe says:

    Wow. Keystone Cop-style contracting. I thought Jim Landon was supposed to be the consumate city manager, thus worth his six figure salary. I wonder if this will reflect negatively on his resume. Good questions from Bill, but the council should expect better from their highly-touted city manager. The city has been stumbling from the start of this relatively minor road project. Anyone there with experience?

    Now for the worst part: the city bears the costs. When we elect people to represent us we are entitled to the expectation of good stewardship of our money. We all pay for this city’s projects. We all drink water. And the CRA’s are money from businesses who collect the revenue from— you guessed it.

  2. Genie says:

    It is the JOB OF ELECTED OFFICIALS to keep the costs DOWN and to hold them to their costs.

    It appears this particular group of politicians are too expensive for us, as well. Thanks for trying, Mr. McGuire.

    It is time for this city to rid itself of this council and this city manager. They have all been there mismanaging our money long enough. Our “Manager” is failing at his job.

  3. A.S.F. says:

    This has gone beyond “contracting” issues and incompetence. Mr. Landon’s actions deserve to be investigated. Any shady dealings discovered should be grounds for his removal from his position as City Manager.

  4. confidential says:

    My question is…why did we waste/spent all with taxpayers money’s buying those private properties next to a street right of way that doesn’t even belong to the city? Why spending all these millions in building this grand entrance that only benefits Town Center? Why didn’t Town Center Developers pay for it? A sickly feeling that we are being taken for a financial ride down the can on our dime.
    Meanwhile our drainage system in the city being neglected, our 300 hundred miles of canals with at least 10 percent of it seawalls

    • Steve Wolfe says:

      The city IS the Town Center developer. Notice how much of the construction around PC is simply public money at work? This city can’t attract or even keep companies with the budgets to build. Imagine your impression if you are conducting a survey of PC for consideration as a site for expansion of a corporation. If you made a presentation to the board of directors in favor of PC you might quickly find yourself unemployed.

  5. confidential says:

    collapsed dragging the private lots soil into our water ways and slowly clogging them while other than enjoy our kayaking and boating we have to endure the eyesore. Old deteriorated drainage culvers under our lost and roads deteriorating to the point of swallowing the soil around them. Reason our millions reserved for those repairs and improvements went to Town Center and now City Hall.

  6. Jack Howell says:

    The sad thing is that nobody will be held accountable. This project has been a debacle since day one. Just once, before I die, I’d like to see Palm Coast council members held accountable especially with this bone headed project. What they did to Mr. Ajrams is nothing more than intimidation that finally blew up in their faces. While Bill McGuire asked good questions ..its too little, too late. What about the other council members reactions? Guess they are brain dead! Not a peep. Leadership, a word that the council members have no clue about, would demand frequent information on this project since the first red flag surfaced. A true leader is going to look out for us taxpayers and demand the right answers from those in charge of this project. I don’t want to hear excuses. I want to hear “Your fired”. How the hell can you start construction on property you don’t own? It is totally irresponsible on the part of the city manager to have not provided proper oversight on this project. But, it looks like ” Red Light” Landon will once again get a pass. Hell, he might even get a pay raise!

    The other sad part to this drama is that I don’t see anybody running for city council that has the backbone to stand up to Jon Netts and Landon and put them in their place. Mr.(Marine) McGuire I thought would be a challenge to Netts and Landon. That did not happen he rolled over and drank the kool aid.

    While the voting public will have a chance to get rid of some dead wood they won’t get out and vote. They are lazy, not aware of the issues and are focused on apathy.

  7. Gia says:

    That entrance was not needed, neither that Gargantua amount $$ paid for that auto repair, & each time P&S & who ever is involve in a job it’s always with cost overrun……They can’t figure it, they can’t estimate & can’t count…..but they sure darn know how to suck the city for more money…Wait for that PC Pkway 6 lanes!…..another useless project with Matanzas bridge overpass North 1/95 construction starting sept.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Maybe this boondoggle Bulldog MESS will be complete in 2015.

    A simple street improvement is proven too difficult for the rocket scientists of Palm Coast. Tragic and typical.

    NEVER TRUST GOVERNMENT!!!! Government was screw up anything it tries to do.

  9. MB says:

    I thought when you make a bid on a job that’s it. If the contractor loses money that’s his fault for underbidding the project. There should be NO COST overruns on a bid job with plans submitted.
    You know what your building you bid the job and got it point blank. Are these people that stupid?

  10. Mike says:

    The entire City council should hang their heads in shame, their first true act of fixing the problem would be to suspend Landon pending an investigation of just how much he cost the city taxpayers. At what point do we (taxpayers) say enough is enough, if you vote these people back in than you get what you deserve, the City is just getting worse. We have zero financial growth, no economic growth and the tax burden will fall right into the laps of the residential taxpayer when its all over. With no industrial growth (Walmarts and Lowes will not pay enough to support a family) and none on the horizon we will be bankrupt or paying huge tax increases to support a City with no industry. If I could sell my house tomorrow I would be gone, I love the life here but see the dim gray future dragging us all down with the current leadership that is in place.

  11. MaryJo says:

    How can you NOT know there were pipes under there? lol.. oh sheesh.

  12. Rob says:

    Your post sounds similar to some of my previous posts.

    Yes this place has little if any meaningful economic growth; fast food, chain restaurants, retail stores to spend your money and that is about it. And the homeowners will continue to absorb the cost of a growing government. The people who pushed Palm Coast becoming a city were a group of knuckleheads. There are two governments and both are marginal. 90 % of the population is in Palm Coast but this 90% is paying for two governments. The town council does not want this city to have real economic growth. Their lack of action speaks volumes. The lobbyist on the town council is only concerned with residential construction. If they put as much time into developing the economy as they do defending the red light cameras and making an end run to back door a town hall then the economics of this city may change.

  13. Mike says:

    @ Rob

    The only thing I agree with them on is the City Hall, why rent if your ownership will only cost upwards of 10% more. The scary part is that residents use nearly $1.38 in services (IE sewer, fire/rescue ECT) for every $1.00 we pay in, but on the flip side industry only uses about 38-45 cents per dollar paid in. So you can see where our short falls will come into play down the road in the next 5-10 years, Palm Coasts entire tax burden will fall on residents

  14. Vincent A. Liguori says:

    I am a KNUCKLEHEAD! Yes, I was one of those who presented facts not fiction to the citizens of Palm Coast relative to the benefits of incorporation. In fact, 60% of Palm Coasters voted for incorporation-all knuckleheads. We knuckleheads wanted to: control the growth, revenue, spending, projects and priorities for our community, elect concerned citizens to the city council who would enforce, monitor, and control all facets of city administration, obtain state and federal revenues which all cities receive -revenue sharing, grants, etc.,prioritize special needs-swales, drainage, keep Palm Coast money in Palm Coast. Who then perpetuates these goals? The city council-wrong! You the citizens do. Do you vote? Do you examine the credentials of those who run for public office? Do you ask what their vision for Palm Coast is? Do you attend city council meetings and voice your concerns? I’ll answer for you-no. Our city has had more than its share of failures-City Market Place, European Village, Books-A-Million, Holiday Inn Express, subdivision decay, empty strip malls and stalled or curtailed projects(new Wal Mart). Where is the aggressive drive for new and competitive new businesses and firms? The local papers convey a false sense of growth and beauty. Let’s stop punishing and drowning new business starts with a plethora of rules and regulations. Open the door and let in some fresh air. Let’s get the city council out of the office and into the daylight of reality. Start meeting with and soliciting new firms-think big and bold. A McDonalds on every corner is not the answer. You may ask, what have you done for us Vince? I have saved the citizens of Palm Coast approx. $5,000,000 in electric utility taxes, fought the improper introduction of modular housing into our community and have joined the battle on many other issues as a former member of the Home Rule Coalition who led the battle for incorporation. It should be apparent to all what happens to a nation, state and local government when you don’t vote. Good Luck

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