Bloomington pushing contractor to complete Switchyard Park by May 24, OKs $230K for more inspection services by design firm

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Concrete forms ready for a pour at Switchyard Park in Bloomington on Friday, April 10, 2020. (Dave Askins/Square Beacon)

The planting of perennials and laying of sod at Bloomington’s new Switchyard Park was not expected to be done until spring. So it’s not surprising to see that kind of work in progress over the last few weeks.

But at their Thursday meeting, Bloomington’s redevelopment commission (RDC) members were told that more substantial work on Switchyard Park, beyond landscaping, was still not complete.

Examples of still unfinished work include a playground and pathways, according to the city’s operations director for the parks department, Dave Williams. He added that a “fairly sizable punch list” remains for facilities like the pavilion, the splash-pad building, and the police department substation building.

About the substation building, which is already being used by the police department, Williams said, “They are in business. But we are behind schedule.”

So the city now is pushing Weddle Brothers Construction to finish the whole project by May 24. The city is applying pressure with a clause in the construction contract that provides payment of $2,000 per day in liquidated damages to the city for a deadline last year that’s already been missed.

Calculated from Nov. 15 last year to the end of March this year, the damages add up to $274,000. That’s how much Bloomington believes Weddle Brothers Construction owes the city under the damage clause. And the clock continues to tick on that amount, from the city’s point of view.

Williams told RDC members, “We have brought that firmly to the attention of Weddle Brothers Construction.”

One question asked at the RDC meeting: What caused the delays?

Williams answered by saying, “I’m sure there are two strongly held opinions between…the city of Bloomington, and Weddle Brothers Construction.” Williams said there’s always going to be weather issues that will slow projects down, but contractors always account for that in their planning.

Where does the Nov. 15 date come from? Williams told commissioners the date specified in the bid documents was for earlier in November, but an extension of 10 days was negotiated.

The construction work was supposed to be done at the time of the “grand opening” for the public held on Nov. 16 and 17 last year.

What about the May 24 date that the city is now pushing for? That’s the date that comes from counting 753 days from May 1, 2018, around the time the project started. The 753 days is the time to completion specified in the contract between Weddle Brothers Construction and the city.

The total value of the construction contract is $27,150,060. Weddle Brothers submitted the lower of two bids. The other bid was made by Crider and Crider, for about $33.4 million.

Williams told RDC members about prospects that Weddle Brothers Construction would finish everything by May 24: “We are optimistic that they will complete the project on schedule.”

It’s not guaranteed that the city will recover liquidated damages of $270,000 or more. Assistant city attorney Larry Allen told commissioners: “I would say there’s no guarantee of recovery, just to be clear. We have raised this issue of a claim with Weddle Brothers. There are certain contractual obligations. …[O]ur position is that under the … clear terms of the contract Weddle Brothers owes us $274,000.”

RDC members were keen to know what the prospects were of getting paid the damages by Weddle Brothers, because of a related item on Thursday’s meeting agenda. The RDC was asked to approve an addendum to the construction inspection agreement with Rundell Ernstberger Associates for Switchyard Park work in the amount of $231,630.

That brings the total contract with Rundell Ernstberger to $3,280,771.67. Rundell Ernstberger is the design contractor for the Switchyard Park project.

Williams said the city had negotiated to get the additional amount paid to Rundell Ernstberger as low as possible by shaving away necessary hours for “boots on the ground” inspections. The work that Rundell Ernstberger needs to be paid to do now is the result of delays caused by Weddle Brothers, according the city of Bloomington.

With at least some prospect of recovering from Weddle Brothers an amount close to the cost of the additional work by Rundell Ernstberger, RDC members seemed persuaded they could support it with a vote, which they did.