Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Vernon barters for extra Central Park work instead of late fines

By Kym Soper
Journal Inquirer
October 15, 2007

VERNON - Rehabilitation work on historic Central Park has expanded to include new sidewalks around the perimeter and brick-style crosswalks across three streets in lieu of fines levied against the contractor for going past deadline, town officials say.

In August, the town started to levy daily fines against contractor H.M. Nunes & Sons Construction of Ludlow, Mass., for the often-stalled project in downtown Rockville that is now 78 days overdue.

Under terms of the contract, the town is allowed to charge the contractor $500 a day in liquidated damages following the missed July 29 completion date, until the project is finally finished.

But town officials say that by law, fines collected by the town have to be turned over to the state, because the project is being funded by a state Transportation Department grant.

So the town and contractor have worked out a deal to replace the fines with in-kind work that town officials always wanted done but couldn't afford.

"We weren't about to turn that money over, so instead we went to a barter system," Mayor Ellen L. Marmer said, adding, "I'm very happy with this."

"It was originally meant to benefit the town of Vernon," Town Administrator Christopher Clark said of the project and its state funding. "Now we're getting brand new crosswalks and sidewalks that were originally contemplated, but not funded.

"When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade - we just want to maximize the grant for the citizens of Vernon," he added.

The $382,480 contract awarded last year calls for a total revamp of the park, bringing in new period lighting, relocating war memorials, adding new walkways, an irrigation system, landscaping, and laying of new sod.

Among the items added to the project in lieu of fines are five textured crosswalks that will be red-tinted concrete stamped with a brick pattern, and decorative walkways surrounding the park on the north, east, and west.

As a result, areas on Park Place, Elm Street, and Park Street will be torn up to make way for the improvements.

The added work totals about $65,000, Clark said. As of today fines owed come to $38,000. The project is coming in under budget, and should easily cover any outstanding balance, Clark said.

Over the weekend, Connecticut Light & Power activated the electric panel in the park, allowing the lighting and irrigation systems to work. Sod should be laid this week.

The project, which has been in the works since the renovated Cogswell Memorial Fountain was installed in fall 2005, first went out to bid in June 2006.

Bids came in significantly over budget - $225,000 - and the project needed to be scaled back, causing further delays.

After many revisions and reviews a contract was awarded last December with construction slated to start April 1, but workers didn't show up until April 25. Work again came to a halt on May 2 and didn't resume again until July 11.

The contractor said it was waiting for CL&P to relocate utility lines around the park, but Clark says it could have worked around that problem and believes another project took the company's attention in that two-month lapse.

©Journal Inquirer 2007