By MIKE WILLIAMS
Comments and complaints from citizens during council meetings and on social media concerning the amount of time taken to complete the West Main Street Water Line Project in downtown Pulaski were addressed during Tuesday night’s meeting of Town Council.
Town Manager Darlene Burcham recalled comments by Allen Palmore at a previous council meeting, March 21.
Palmore had questioned whether the project would be completed by April 5 as he had read in The Patriot.
He noted that he had also learned from a television news report that the project would last from 150 to 180 days.
He questioned why the change, and also earlier comments about work on the project sometimes being conducted seven days a week.
“I’m actually glad that Mr. Palmore is here tonight,” Burcham said. “He did make some comments at the last meeting, and the only thing I can say is that I said what I believed or understood at the time, so I didn’t try to make up something. I’m as easy to forget or make mistakes as anyone else. But his comments have really bothered me. So, I went back and listened to the tape of the council meeting and talked to staff and pulled contracts and everything else to try to figure out where the missing pieces and parts were.”
“I think what has caused it [confusion] more than anything is the contractor’s commitment to us, which was a verbal one, that he would do the project as quickly as possible because he understood that it was putting a hardship on those businesses that were in that block. And he felt confident he could get it done by the first of April, and that didn’t happen,” Burcham continued.
“I would also tell you that Mr. Palmore is correct. The contract itself does call for 150 days for substantial completion, and 180 for final completion.
“But I would also tell you that we did a change order to that contract in order to allow us to put in additional meters and in some cases vaults in order to upgrade the service to many of these buildings where the owners obviously feel like there’s going to be some very positive progress on that street in the near future. And so, they have asked for additional meters for upper floor apartments or other kinds of activities,” she said.
“Unfortunately,” Burcham added, “those vaults like a lot of things are not just laying on a shelf, and we are waiting for that – although this evening coming back to work I noticed that there was some trucks moving on the Washington Avenue side of (Main Street) so it looks like perhaps they have gotten some of those materials in. But we want that done just as quickly as possible.
“And we actually asked all of the owners. We sent them a letter telling them that they had to let us know by early January if they wanted additional meters because we didn’t want to do the project, pave the street and then turn around and dig it up because of the need for additional meters, and that’s one of the reasons why we extended the lines to the property line so that we can have sprinkler systems.
“So, I apologize for my mistakes,” Burcham stated. “I take what I say seriously and I wanted to make sure that if I was inaccurate I corrected the information.”
But, she continued, “I honestly in my heart of hearts believe that that particular block is going to make a big comeback as soon as it re-opens. I was pleased to hear that a new business is going into the former Max on Main, which again I think is a demonstration that people believe in what we’re doing there and that it’s right for development. We have five buildings that are under renovation right now or rehabilitation, where the plan is for retail and upper floor apartments.
“When we first started this project, as I said, the contractor wanted to expedite it. We offered and I think I’ve said this previously we offered to let them work up to seven days a week if they wanted to. That was not a requirement of them. And again, we were trying to expedite the project as quickly as we could.
“But the contractor has been waiting for the last week or so for those vaults, and it appears that maybe some of that is in and we will soon see some real progress,” Burcham said.