Settlement moves street repair projects forward
By Jason Rowe
VERNON - The town has worked out its differences with a Massachusetts-based contractor, and the stalled reconstruction work on Mountain, Lawrence, and Webster streets is set to begin on Monday.
The streets were supposed to be rebuilt this year as part of the $19.2 million road reconstruction project approved by voters at referendum in November 2004. And reconstruction work began this spring, but was halted at the end of June to allow utility companies to complete work on gas and water lines on the three streets.
But when the utility work was completed in August, the road's contractor - Baltazar Contractors Inc., of Ludlow, Mass. - did not return to work by Labor Day as expected. Instead, the contractor refused to go back to work, saying the company was owed an additional $230,000 from the town for work already completed.
Town officials balked at that demand, and threatened to go after the company's performance bond if work did not resume on the $2 million contract.
But last week, town officials and Paulo C. Baltazar, the contracting company's president, reached an agreement, which will allow work to resume. Under the agreement, the town will pay Baltazar $100,000 for any cost overages on work done so far.
Another $37,500 will be paid to the contractor to compensate for them having to return to the site.
In exchange, the contractor must restart work on Monday, Town Administrator Christopher Clark said.
Because the project will likely not be completed before the cold weather months, Baltazar will also be responsible for completing winter paving of the road, which will allow snow plows to service the streets.
Had Baltazar not returned to work, the town's Department of Public Works would have been called on to complete the winterization.
The entire reconstruction project should be wrapped up next spring, officials said.
"This is an amicable settlement," said Clark, who added that the agreement should prevent further construction delays and costly litigation.
As part of the agreement, Baltazar will oversee all work on the Vernon project personally.
"I look forward to the timely, successful completion of the project," Baltazar wrote in an Oct. 11 letter to Clark confirming their agreement.
Residents in the area have complained that the unfinished project has left an unsightly appearance and unsafe conditions on the three streets. One resident reported a 4-foot-deep hole near his Lawrence Street home.
In July, a car was swallowed by a 5-foot sinkhole as it traveled on Lawrence Street during a water-main test, which weakened the soil underneath the road.
The driver was uninjured and the car wasn't seriously damaged.
©Journal Inquirer 2006