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Still unhappy with Main St.

Contractors, city can’t agree on compromise

By Doug Lindner
Solon Economist

SOLON– Things are not going swimmingly between the City of Solon and its contractors for the 2012 Main Street improvement project.
The city is not satisfied with the asphalt paving portion of the project and has sought an independent evaluation. The contractors have argued the job was delayed by Beef Days, pushing the paving into cooler months, and that the work met the requirements of the contract.
City representatives sat down with the contractors recently, and that meeting was contentious. Some of it spilled over, in a civil but vocal way, during last week’s Solon City Council meeting.
Engineer Dave Schechinger reported during the Wednesday, Nov. 6, regular session that the two sides are still seeking compromises.
“We’re trying to determine if there’s something in the middle that we could do to take care of the issue,” Schechinger noted.
The contractors are asking to have money they are owed released, with liquidated damages to be determined separately, Schechinger said, while the city continues to be unhappy with the quality of the asphalt work.
One suggestion to come out of the meeting, he said, was to have the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) review the project.
Council members were wary of the idea initially, but warmed up to it after learning that the DOT’s findings would not be considered binding, and might be done without cost.
Council member Steve Stange felt the city had already pursued an independent evaluation at substantial expense, and he noted there have been concerns about the asphalt since the project was completed.
“As soon as the last block got laid, we were having a meeting up on Main Street,” Stange said.
The city withheld approximately $45,000 in payments to All American Concrete of West Liberty, and subsequently hired Terracon, an Iowa City engineering and consulting company, to assess the paving project.
Back in September, the city received Terracon’s report indicating five of the six samples taken did not meet the minimums for compaction required by the city.
“Whatever the specifications, I can see that it’s not holding up now,” Mayor Cami Rasmussen said. “At the end of the day it’s just not acceptable.”
The subcontractor for the project, Hansen Asphalt of Iowa City, had representatives present in the audience during the discussion, and they had a different take.
Clint Hansen told council members the asphalt portion of the project consisted of only a two-inch overlay, representing only $63,000 of the overall project cost. Because of delays, he said, paving was done when the temperatures were not optimal, and on a tight schedule to maintain access to businesses.
Stange, however, pointed out the delays were caused by All American Concrete not being on the site after Beef Days.
“That’s an All American Concrete problem, not a City of Solon problem,” he said.
No matter what the reason, he continued, the city council members don’t think it looks good and community residents don’t either.
Council member Mark Krall also noted the city has several other streets which were improved with a two-inch overlay and they’re holding up well.
Whether the city finds the work unacceptable or not, city attorney Jim Martinek warned council members not to paint themselves into a corner. The city, he explained, is only entitled to substantial compliance to the terms sort forth in the construction contract.
He recommended the city proceed with a review by the DOT, indicating it would be prudent to have as much information as possible.