After several minutes of tense back-and-forth between Port St. Joe city officials and the contractor for the recent paving of Long Avenue, the city commissioners once again voted on July 18 to table the matter of paying the final bill for the completed work.
But at a special meeting held two days later, the commissioners voted to pay all but $100,000 of the project’s remaining $414,578.85 balance. The contractor will have the ability to either accept that offer or counter with their own.
According to the commissioners, the decision to pay the majority of the remaining balance was made in order to try to amend some of the city’s working relationship with North Florida Construction, the contractor for Long Avenue’s paving, and to see the issue resolved.
“I know there’s been good relationships in the past, and I’m sure there’s been bumps in the road along the way, but in government, I think everybody knows, just like in business, you can expect that to happen from time to time,” said commissioner Steve Kerigan.
“It’s time to work through the problem and come up with solutions to get us to where we need to be tomorrow. We do need to keep the city on track with the projects that are going on… I know with my business, with the money that is owed, I would need the money coming in to keep paying bills and stuff like that.”
The city’s decision came in the wake of heated disputes over the amount of a proposed price reduction due to concerns about the quality of the completed work.
At the commissioners’ July 18 meeting, Jamie Miller, a project manager with North Florida Construction took to the podium to address the conflict directly.
His company has offered the city $20,091.50 to cover the cost of the paving’s deficiencies, which would be deducted from the city’s final payment to North Florida Construction.
This is about $80,000 less than the $100,000 requested by the city.
According to Miller, this discrepancy is the result of several change orders, which have not yet been officially presented to or voted on by the commissioners. No details of the changes had been provided to the city by North Florida Construction at the time of the July 18 meeting.
“We did accept the $100,000 penalty. However, we had $80,000 in overages, so that’s the number reflected,” he said to the board.
Miller said the company did not initially intend to bring the change orders, which would cover unforeseen costs related to asphalt overages for patchwork and utility conflicts, before the commissioners.
“We operate in that manner,” he said. “We do extra, and cooperate, and don’t send change orders every time we come across something that should be a change order. It’s just how we operate.”
“But when we’re boxed into a corner, obviously, we’re going to need to be reimbursed for those things.”
Commissioner Scott Hoffman then questioned whether the contractor would have brought the change orders before the board had the city not requested the $100,000.
“No I would not have,” responded Miller.
Port St. Joe’s commissioners have spent months discussing deficiencies with Long Avenue’s paving, which has been an ongoing city project for more than a year.
At the city’s June 13 meeting, City Engineer Josh Baxley informed the commissioners that the freshly repaved road could have gone bumpy for a number of reasons — whether environmental or the result of mistakes made by construction crews.
But regardless, he said, after months of paving, about 442 linear feet of the road would need to be redone in order to eradicate some of the bumps causing concerns.
“It’s the area of the problem and then 50 feet on either side of that,” Baxley said. “So it’s 104, 120, 109 and 109 feet that would have to be repaved.”
“We don’t know exactly why it happened, but those stretches of road produce a bumpy ride.”
Baxley’s report included three recommended options for moving forward, which the city commissioners spent the better part of 15 minutes discussing.
The commissioners told Miller that they would not approve his suggested $20,000 before they had received and been able to vote on the change orders he discussed.
“Well, we need a change order,” said Mayor Rex Buzzett. “If we’re going to go ahead and subtract $80,000, we’re going to have to have some sort of change order, and it’s going to have to come to a vote… So, that’s what I would suggest you do.”
On July 20, Hoffman made a motion to pay North Florida Construction $314,578.85 as the project’s payment in full. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Eric Langston and passed unanimously.
A representative from North Florida Construction was present at the July 20 meeting as well, though they chose not to make any public comment.
The contractor may choose not to approve the city’s final payment, at which time, negotiations would continue.