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Final touches coming to long-delayed $12 million Healdsburg roundabout project

The contractor behind Healdsburg’s long-delayed roundabout is scheduled to return this week for some finishing touches as the city looks to formally accept the completed project at an upcoming council meeting.

The five-way roundabout at the southern edge of downtown has been open and fully functional since mid-November, but eight months later several minor repairs still need to be addressed by contractor Bay Cities Paving & Grading. The city has for months been at odds with the Concord-based construction firm over who was responsible for many of the fixes, which range from a cracked curb and gutter to uneven sidewalk segments, according to Larry Zimmer, the city’s public work director. They amount to an estimated $40,000 of work, he said.

“We’ve been struggling to get the contractor out here to finish that work,” he said. “As they’re starting to do their work, there will certainly be a fair amount of back and forth. Things aren’t always so black and white, especially on this project.”

In some cases where a proposed repair may create too large a disruption to the public to warrant the work, the city will consider accepting the flaw “as is” and deduct it from the final payment owed to Bay Cities, said Zimmer. So far, the city has paid the contractor about $9 million for the project.

The roundabout at Healdsburg Avenue, Vine and Mill streets was budgeted at $10.3 million and originally slated to be finished in September 2017. It will be wrapped up about two years behind schedule, but at no more than $9.1 million, Zimmer said.

The city also paid $2.7 million to Santa Rosa-based engineering firm GHD for project management and design support. That brings the final cost of the project, approved in April 2016, to a total of about $11.8 million.

Work began on the roundabout in June 2016, but immediately ran into delays after construction crews damaged buried water, gas and sewer lines that required repair.

None of the $1 million contingency fund was tapped for the project, but the delay did double the value of GHD’s initial ?$1.3 million contract.

The city eliminated about $1.7 million in “nonessential items” from the project, including decorative rock and additional landscaping, to stay on budget. That was done partly in light of about $800,000 in extra costs to cover the unexpected time for crews to fix the underground utilities.

Former Councilwoman Brigette Mansell, who served as mayor during much of the work on the roundabout, blamed higher costs on a lack of cooperation between all parties once setbacks in construction sprung up. Several nearby businesses complained of hefty financial losses from the prolonged project timeline, with at least four stating it forced them to close for good.

“The project was riddled with surprises, and, quite frankly, faulty communication channels resulting in posturing and increased legal fees rather than collaboration with a focus on getting the multiple tasks done right,” said Mansell.

City spokeswoman Rhea Borja said, however, that Healdsburg and Bay Cities had made significant progress on the project since Mansell stepped down from the council late last year.

Messages left for Eric Barker, general manager of Bay Cities and project manager on the Healdsburg roundabout, went unreturned.

Zimmer said the city is not pursuing damages or fines of up to $1,000 day that would be allowed for delays because of what he said were ambiguities in the contract.

Healdsburg officials are hopeful the touch-up work will be completed soon so the City Council can sign off on the project.

“The roundabout is working beautifully and I’ve heard nothing but positive feedback,” said Mayor David Hagele. “That said, when you have an infrastructure project of this scope, size and smack in the middle of town … there are going to be challenges. I look forward to receiving the final staff report so we as a council have the opportunity to review the challenges everyone faced … and what we can learn as we tackle future large infrastructure projects.”

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin Fixler at 707-521-5336.

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