A sizeable 2016 road project in Rushford Village is finally at an end. City Engineer Josh Pope, of Bolton & Menk, was on hand at the Tuesday, August 1 council meeting to cover details of the final pay application to contractor McHugh Excavating, of La Crescent. Pope indicated follow-up punch list items are now completed and suggested a May meeting with the contractor and letter from the council, detailing issues with the contractor and lack of work, was responsible for spurring on project completion.
“I have since met with the contractor. They’ve indicated $30,000 worth of extras they feel entitled to,” said Pope. “Some have merit. Upon review, we found $6,679 did merit additional compensation.” The council approved the final pay application, in the amount of $38,508.79, bringing the total project cost to $643,000. This is $12,000 below the original amount awarded in the project. “There is a warranty and maintenance period, so there is recourse if needed, but without money dangling over their head…” added Pope.
Some on the council, including Mayor Gordon Johnson and Councilor Chad Rasmussen were noticeably still frustrated with the contractor, with the question of retaining funds from the final pay application being suggested. “Frustrations abound by everyone. The good news is we’re pretty much at the end,” said Pope.
Councilor Rasmussen questioned line items from the final pay application including more than $5,000 for the removal of a tree. Pope indicated that McHugh was able to present documentation for the fee, including the cost of a chipper rental and other equipment. Mayor Johnson noted that Public Works had offered to remove the tree at the city’s cost. “They told us they would just charge us more for the pipe,” he added.
“I think it’s just them trying to stick something to us,” added Rasmussen. “I hope we never have to deal with McHugh again. They’re terrible.”
“They just didn’t perform,” stated Mayor Johnson. “Retaining something is still a thought in my mind. How long can we hold something when we’ve had work like this?”
Pope responded that with work being completed, it should be paid. “Would we like to retain some? Yes. Their hang-up is showing up to do the work.” The question of holding funds until the warranty period is over was also mentioned. “In a way, it’s good their work took so long,” Pope responded. “The warranty kicks in when the project is complete.”
“It still hurts to give them anything,” concluded Mayor Johnson. It was motioned by Councilor Dennis Overland and seconded by Councilor Mike Ebner to approve the final pay application. It was approved by four votes. Councilor Rich Smith was absent.
The project has left at least one property owner upset with water puddling in the ditch right-of-way. Resident Donna Fowler spoke to the council regarding what she believes is excess water in the ditch since the project. Public Works Supervisor Travis Scheck couldn’t confirm the water report, having not seen it firsthand.
“We were told there would be no water problems. We have a water problem and we can’t maintain the slope,” said Fowler.
Pope indicated to the council that despite the two inch rise in pavement, due to the road work, the slope of the project at the property was tied in to achieve the same slope, or a negligible amount, as was present before the project began. “Our whole goal was to not make things worse,” said Pope. The area has a large watershed and without a massive undertaking to correct it, the project was aimed at improving the water flow as much as possible. Pope acknowledged some ditches lost capacity as slopes were matched to existing grades, but that it wouldn’t affect overall flow. “We’re not changing the water characteristics. It’s the same slope. We’ve had significant rain events,” he added.
Fowler indicated that as much as eight or nine inches can stand in the ditch at her Goodrich and Sherwood Street property, for as long as 2-3 days if heavily saturated, before creeping up the yard and soaking in. “That’s basically what the ditches are supposed to do,” noted Councilor Dennis Overland.
“Every time we’ve had a rain, I’ve taken a drive around,” added Rasmussen, who works for the Department of Transportation. “We’re seeing water in places we’ve never seen it before.”
It was noted that concessions were made to the project by a consensus of area residents. Originally the project was slated to widen the road to the north, which would have caused significant water issues to contend with, as well as increased slopes. So, upon resident input, the road was widened to the south.
In other news, the city has received notice from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that designation of final flood mapping is on hold while a review is under way. The Department of Natural Resources is contesting the mapping layout and made their appeal known within the 90 day review period. “That stops everything until it’s resolved,” said Zoning Administrator Jon Pettit.
Mayor Johnson brought forward a recent discussion in the Mayor’s Association regarding the placing of, “In God We Trust,” on council chambers in the state. “It caught my interest enough. Is it something we’d be willing to do? We do the Pledge of Allegiance before meetings. That’s probably taboo, too,” said Johnson. “It caught my curiosity. I thought we could take the opportunity to see what people you run across think about it. I would like to have it on the agenda for next month.”
City Treasurer Judy Graham noted, “We’re pretty much a Christian group. By putting it on our wall, it isn’t going to point to just our God. All religions have a god.”
City Attorney Tom Manion offered another take on it. “It’s on our money. It has a federal connection. To me, that’s the association I know.”
“We make decisions based on a lot of different things. It’s something to consider,” added Johnson. The issue will be discussed again at the second meeting in August.
The next regularly scheduled council meeting is Tuesday, August 15, at 7 p.m., at the Village Hall. The public is encouraged to attend.