Council awards Diamond Drive Phase 3 contract

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Construction should begin by the end of April

By Jennifer Garcia

Drivers get ready. Your trip between 39th Street  and North Road is about to get a bit bumpy.

During Tuesday night’s county council meeting, councilors voted to award Bid No. 2009-11 to RMCI Inc. in the amount of $4.91 million plus applicable gross receipts tax for the construction of Diamond Drive Phase 3.

The motion passed 6-1, with Councilor Robert Gibson voting against it.

In addition, the motion also set a project budget of $6.87 million and approved the associated budget, which will allow $208,681 to be moved from the Phase 2 remaining funds, to the Phase 3 fund, increasing the roadwork budget from $4.33 million to $4.54 million.

Public Works Director Kyle Zimmerman was in council chambers to make a presentation to councilors and explain what sort of work residents can expect to see in Phase 3.

“There is 3,300 feet of roadwork related to that part (between Ridgeway and North Road, just south of 39th Street),” Zimmerman told council. He mentioned that curbs, gutters and sidewalks will be replaced.

In addition, the road will be realigned so that people coming out of the Urban Park area will be able to see better.

“We’ll push the road a little toward the soccer field,” he said. He also said that the footprint for the road will be the same, as there will be five lanes, as well as bicycle lanes and sidewalks.

One of the main concerns that came up during the discussion centered on the difficulties that drivers experienced in navigating through the construction zone of Phase 2.

In addition, council seemed to feel that residents needed to be informed of closures, delays and other aspects of the construction process that might affect them.

“If we award this bid, there’s three things that I want to get your commitment for,” Councilor Ralph Phelps told Zimmerman following his presentation. “I want you to provide the lessons learned report in a briefing to whoever gets the contract. Second, I want you to use the earned value curves to monitor project progress. And third, I want you to provide a periodic report to council on the earned value curves and on how things are going.”

Councilor Sharon Stover concurred.

She encouraged Zimmerman to hold neighborhood meetings so the public would be aware of whom to contact if they needed to speak to someone about the project.

“Our credibility with the community is managing the road projects has been damaged by what people experienced (during Diamond Drive Phase 2), especially in the North community,” Stover pointed out.

Zimmerman responded by assuring her that a public meeting would be held before the construction process starts.

During his presentation, Zimmerman said the county would impose fines on the contractor if workers caused traffic delays that lasted for more than 10 minutes at a time. He said that a fine of $1,000 per hour would be charged to the contractor, or $500 per half hour or any portion thereof would also be imposed.

He also said the fines are listed in the specifications of the contract and that RMCI is aware of them. The county included this stipulation as a way to discourage traffic snafus that were encountered during Phase 2 because of the contractor moving equipment at inopportune times.

Zimmerman also stated that one lane of traffic would be open at all times during construction.

Councilor Vincent Chiravalle asked Zimmerman how the rate of traffic would be monitored in order to determine whether the contractor gets fined.

“You monitor it by driving it,” Zimmerman responded. He then mentioned that he and his project managers drove the route during Phase 2 to determine how long it took the average drive to get through the construction zone.

Council Vice Chairman Mike Wismer asked for a hard and fast commitment from Zimmerman and his staff for Phase 3.

“We want to make sure this is safe and make sure we don’t go through the nightmare we went through the last time,” he said.

Despite Zimmerman’s assurances that this project would be run differently, Gibson was not convinced.

“This kind of project is inherently disruptive. We’ve experienced a number of projects like this over the years that have taken fare more inconvenience than it should have,” he said.

He also said council and residents have heard ideas of various things that staff will try to do better.

“But I don’t see any recognition for the need for how we manage these projects. It appears that we’re in the mode of continuing to do things the way we’ve always done them and expect a different result. How are we supposed to have confidence that this project will be done on time?” Gibson said.

County Administrator Max Baker said he disagrees with Gibson in terms of lessons learned.

“Kyle and I have talked a lot about this. We recognized that it (Phase 2) didn’t go as well as it should have. I hope that the community and council realize that there will be some issues and we’ll address these issues in a timely way. We’ve done things in the contract that will help us,” he said.

Sounding a bit exasperated, Council Chair Michael Wheeler told Zimmerman council is tired of getting comments and hate mail over things that council delegates to staff.

“We’re at an arm’s length at that point,” he said. “We have little control, however, council can certainly take action and I don’t want to have to do that, but this project has got to be done properly, safely and with minimal impact to the community.”

He then suggested that if the contractor insisted on moving their equipment during rush hour, then the police should be called in to remedy the situation.

Though he was clearly not pleased with the way Phase 2 turned out, Wismer said that there is a lot of good being done by this project.

“It’s incumbent on us to do it well. I think we are going to be held accountable. I’d encourage you to take aggressive action to monitor the actions of the contractor to make sure we don’t have a repeat of Phase 2,” he said.

Once RMCI receives notice that they have been awarded the contract, they should start work within 30 days.

Zimmerman expects construction to begin at the end of April and last through the end of October or possibly the end of November.