by CHRIS ROGERS
Psych — Winona street repairs are not getting done this year after all.
Old Highway 43, Winona’s portion of Goodview Road, Huff Street near Lake Park, 10th Street near Huff Street, Ridgewood Drive, and part of Highland Drive were all on the docket to be resurfaced this year as part of the city’s annual mill-and-overlay projects. Mill and overlay refers to grinding up the top layers of potholed pavement and resurfacing them. The work was funded and contracts were signed, but the city’s contractor won’t be able to get them done until next spring, Winona City Engineer Brian DeFrang announced this month.
DeFrang has been fielding regular questions about when the work will be done from council members, who themselves are getting calls from citizens. In October, he told the council and the Winona Post that the contractor — Dunn Blacktop — would get the work done before the end of this construction season. Even though it was coming down to the wire, once the work got started, it would only take the contractor a week to finish, DeFrang said last month. Since then, there has been a lot of rain, and in meetings and interviews this month, DeFrang said it will not be possible to complete the paving work after all because of the weather. The contractor had other, larger projects to contend with as well.
“The rain probably held them back on most projects they were doing, and it pushed everything back,” DeFrang stated. “I know the county had several projects they didn’t get paved either. Bad year.” However, he said, “It’ll be first thing out of the gates in the spring.”
Is there any consequence for the contractor not meeting the city’s October 31 completion deadline? The contract allows the city to charge $500 a day in damages for every day the projects are not completed after that deadline, DeFrang stated. However, those per-day damages are limited to a maximum of one week — or around $3,500 total. “It’s not a lot of money,” DeFrang noted. He added of charging damages, “It’s nonsensical for us to do that because we’ll end up paying for it in the end.”
Dunn Blacktop is often the only contractor to bid on local asphalt paving projects. If the city charged the contractor damages, the contractor could just pass those costs onto the city in the next contract, DeFrang explained. “With blacktop, there’s not a lot of competition out there. So say we charge them that money, they could easily up their prices,” he stated. “I’m mean, I’m not saying they would do that, but we’d rather hedge our bets that we wouldn’t take that gamble for such a small amount of money,” he added.
A representative from Dunn Blacktop was not available for comment on this story.
For some projects, not finishing on time is a big deal. DeFrang described how very high damages in a contract for repaving portions of Broadway made sure contractors got the work done and reopened Broadway in short order.
For these resurfacing projects, it is less urgent, DeFrang said. Traffic can still flow in the meantime. “If they would have got it done, it would have been better, but the streets, they’re passable. It’s not like they’re impassable. Nobody is really out anything. If you shut down a street like Broadway, people have to go another way. There’s a cost with time,” he stated. For citizens who live near these mill and overlay projects, he added, “Their street isn’t brand new. It will be next spring.”
“There is that option of cancelling the contract and rebidding it, but there’s one contractor that’s probably going to bid it,” DeFrang noted.
Other than the missed deadline, the contract was a good one, the city engineer stated. “I can’t complain about those prices … It’s the lowest they’ve been in five years. So the prices are good. The fact that we’re getting it five months later is not really hurting us any. We’ll just get it five months later,” he said.