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June 17, 2014 7:28 am

Road blocked: East Monroe Street extension halted by squabble over dollars

Written by Tom Lawrence

Work on a one-block extension of East Monroe Street between Panther Boulevard and South Jones Street came to a halt last week due to a dispute between the developer and the contractor. Some drivers were moving the road closed sign over, as shown above, and using the street. The city is hoping an agreement can be reached and the extension completed. Work on a one-block extension of East Monroe Street between Panther Boulevard and South Jones Street came to a halt last week due to a dispute between the developer and the contractor. Some drivers were moving the road closed sign over, as shown above, and using the street. The city is hoping an agreement can be reached and the extension completed. Tribune photo by Ilene Olson

Work on an extension of East Monroe Street on the southeast edge of Powell has come to a halt.

The extension was launched last fall in tandem with the development of Buck Creek Apartments at 1015 E. Monroe St. The street extension was being done by Sammons Excavation of Lovell.

The north half of that section of Monroe Street was annexed into the city, according to Public Works Director Gary Butts, and the city will own the improvements once they are completed.

That may take some time. On Monday morning, the street was an uneven dirt trail and no work was being done there. No machinery or workers were present.

The apartment complex is being built by the Summit Housing Group and managed by Highland Property Management, both based in Missoula, Mont.

At the June 2 Powell City Council meeting, Water/ Wastewater Superintendent Bill Winters said the developer and Sammons Excavation had discovered the street was not being built to city standards and had to be redone. The two parties were in dispute over who was responsible for the additional cost, Winters said.

Ty Sammons, the owner of Sammons Excavation, said he halted work on June 10 and pulled his equipment.

“There was a discrepancy in the plans,” Sammons said. “The engineer that designed that job only called for a certain amount of structural fill under the street that’s going in. I don’t know if someone was trying to pull a fast one or they overlooked it.”

The city inspected the job more than a month ago, he said, and ordered the amount of fill to be doubled. The city checks on projects throughout the development for compliance to city specifications, Butts said.

Another problem developed when an active clay tile drain was located under Monroe Street. It was not in his initial plans, Sammons said.

The tile drain had to be pulled up so a sewer main could be placed there, and then the drain had to be reinstalled. That turned a two-day job into a nine-day project.

“It was a nightmare from that point on,” Sammons said.

His firm was hired for “all the dirt work,” he said, including the street extension, sewer line work, water services and prepping for concrete. His company started work at the site in November, but he pulled the plug last week and won’t start back up until the change order is approved.

“I wasn’t just going to sit around and wait for them to make a decision,” Sammons said. “Summit Housing Group needs to decide what they are going to do. I think Summit Housing Group needs to cough up the money to take care of this.”

The engineer who created the plans also could be held responsible, he said.

“All I’m doing is waiting for an approved change order. That’s the hold-up. That’s all there is to it,” Sammons said. “I’m the one looking like the bad guy here, and I’m really not.”

He said the dispute involves $35,000 to $36,000 worth of work and material. Rusty Snow, Summit Housing Group’s vice president for development, agreed with that figure and said he thinks the matter can be resolved soon, with the parties settling “somewhere in the middle.”

Sammons said he did the work on the sewer line, worth about $16,000, on a “leap of faith.” Snow said Summit Housing will compensate him for that work, saying it was an engineering error.

Sammons said it’s been a difficult period, with angry local residents confronting him about the stalled project.

He said he has tried to keep the Road Closed signs on either end of the street extension in place, but last week he saw someone move a sign and drive past. When he approached the vehicle, the driver flipped him off and drove on, Sammons said.

Snow said he had been told work was being done on the street on Friday. When informed that was not the case, Snow said it was news to him.

“We’re almost done. If there’s a discrepancy with cost, we’ll get it figured out and get it done,” he said. “There’s no doubt there will be a resolution. We’re literally days away from being complete.

“We have agreed to complete the street, and we will complete the street,” Snow said.

Oakwood Construction of Michigan is the general contractor for the job. Sammons said the firm also is building the new Ironwood Apartments at 835 E. Seventh St. for the Wyoming Housing Network. That project is scheduled to be completed in mid-July.

Buck Creek was scheduled to open on June 1, but with the street in front of it left undone, the complex stands empty.

Snow said July 1 is a good target date for the complex to open.

Buck Creek was budgeted at $2.37 million, with a $244,770 low-income federal tax credit to support it, as well as $501,802 from the HOME Investment Partnership dollars through the Wyoming Community Development Authority. The government dollars are awarded to new developments to encourage the construction of more affordable housing.

Butts said the city is seeking more information.

“The city is looking into what is going on, but we have no direct answer on the dispute, or the details of the dispute as yet,” Butts said in an email response to the Tribune. “We do know and realize that work seems to have stopped and our involvement is to get the work going again.

“As of last week the investment developers and the contractor were working on getting a change order in place,” Butts said Monday. “If they do not agree, the city has legal means to take care of it; however, we try to exhaust all other methods to take care of it first.”

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