Tuesday, May 29, 2012

EDITORIAL >> Water woes get worse

Residents and at least one business along Graham Road in Jacksonville found a scary notice Saturday stuck on their doors: Their water would be turned off from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday so the contractor could relocate more water lines as part of the Graham Road widening project.

The notice appeared to be from the Jacksonville Water Department, but there was no one to call over the weekend about the shutoff. Annoyed residents and business owners read the notice in the sweltering heat, wiping away sweat from their foreheads in the 95-degree heat and wondering how they’d get through the day without water.

The water-line relocation project, which is several months behind schedule, has inconvenienced residents and has interrupted operations at this newspaper. Workers digging on Graham Road have often mistakenly cut off natural gas and telephone lines.

The project was supposed to wind up in early January, and here we are at the start of summer, and there’s still no end in sight.

Co-Bar Contracting of North Little Rock, which is doing the water-line relocation, claims the water department has provided incorrect information about the location of the water lines and made numerous changes to the work order.
Jake Short, the water department’s general manager, said Co-Bar was given two extensions to complete the four changes his department requested. The first one was for 43 days, and the second extension was for 48 days.

Co-Bar Contracting was the low bidder at $436,000, according to Short. He says the most recent estimate is the project will cost $63,000 more than the original bid, or about $500,000, which the city will get back from the state Highway Department because the state is paying for the cost of the relocation. In any case, you’re footing the bill if you’re still counting.

Charles Tankersley, the spokesman for Co-Bar Contracting, says the project has cost nearly $76,000 more than his original bid and that figure will continue to go up because the water department is still making changes. It’s bound to get worse.

The contractor may take legal action against Jacksonville. He should expect a countersuit, according to city officials.

The water-line relocation will make way for the $7 million widening of Graham Road to four lanes from Loop Road to Elm and Oak streets, a distance of about a mile. The widening project is 80 percent federally funded. Expect more cost overruns before the project is completed.

As for the notice posted on doors over the weekend: Jacksonville Water Department officials said Tuesday they had nothing to do with those notices. Apparently the contractor had mistakenly posted them in areas that weren’t supposed to have their water cut off Tuesday.

No wonder residents can’t wait for the contractor to get out of town.