Main Street from 22nd Street out to Jamestown Apartments has been open to traffic now for a week, but the project won't be finally completed for another month, if not longer.

Heavy rains early this summer have caused delays, city engineer John Sprague told members of the Redevelopment Commission Thursday morning, and Kerns Excavating, Bicknell, the company awarded the $3.8 million contract last year, recently requested an additional 136 days to finish the job.

Per the original contract, the completion date was set for Sept. 1.

Kerns, in its request, cited problems such as a delay in relocating utilities early on as well as an “unseasonably wet spring and summer.” Kerns lost 44 work days due to rain alone.

Kerns didn’t request the full 136 days, however, asking for a lesser 90 to finish the job.

Sprague, however, countered with an allowance of 76 additional days, putting the final completion date now at Nov. 15.

After that, he told the RDC, the city will begin charging liquidated damages for every day the road isn’t finished.

“That will at least get the project done before Thanksgiving,” he said.

Sprague, too, placed a limit on the overages Kerns was planning to charge the RDC, which sold $5 million in bonds to pay for it.

Those overages, Sprague said, were largely due to two unapproved diversions from the original design.

Kerns, Sprague said, was estimating a 25% overage, which would equate to an additional $70,000.

Sprague, however, said the city will only allow a 5% overage, which means an additional $10,000 to $13,000 increase to the original $3.8 million cost.

“We talked about it, went over the timeline of events, and that’s how my office decided to respond,” Sprague said.

“That’s fair, how you went about it,” said RDC president Brad Dale. “There’s always a bit of overrun, that’s to be expected, but you’ve allowed for that.”

Asphalt is down, Sprague said, which allowed Kerns to reopen the road to bus and school traffic in the mornings and late afternoons.

From 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. the street is closed so crews can continue work.

Sprague said among the remaining projects are the pouring of sidewalks, the installation of light poles, signage, sod, etc.

RDC members also on Thursday approved an additional $10,000 expenditure to make two concrete manhole covers along that stretch of Main Street look more aesthetically pleasing.

The two concrete boxes — one on either side of U.S. 41 — contain the intersection of very large storm water drainage pipes that work to better remove water from an area once prone to flooding.

Sprague told RDC members last month that he hadn't expected them to be so visible; they'll stick out of the ground as much as 3 feet — or about waist-high, he said — and since they'll be adjacent to the sidewalks, very noticeable to passers-by.

So he sought help from a local mason, Matt Hendrixson, to get prices for putting on three sides of the manhole structures a faux-brick facade. Sprague likened it to a "lick 'em and stick 'em" type of option that could be easily attached to give the structures a nicer look.

The end result, he said, would look much like the large brick flower boxes at the corner of Second and Main streets downtown.

After having a month to think about it, RDC members were on board.

“I went out there to see it, and I think that will look nice,” Dale said, to which several RDC members nodded in agreement.

“It all looks nice,” said RDC vice-president Beth Meeks. “I can’t wait to see (the finished product).”

MAIN STREET PHASE II

So with the hiccups of Main Street Phase I behind them, RDC members looked ahead a bit to the next phase of the overall project, which will pick up Main Street at Jamestown Apartments and head out to Sievers Road.

City officials received a federal grant to help pay for 80% of the estimated $4 million cost of Phase II, and that money will be released in the summer of 2021.

The design of Phase II is well underway, but Sprague said the Indiana Department of Natural Resources has stepped in with a “red flag.”

Part of the design is to realign Felt King Road, a design that would see a split, or “segregation,” as DNR calls it, of some woods there.

Splitting a forest, DNR says, places wildlife at risk. Their natural habitat is divided, and they are often killed while trying to cross.

Sprague said he is pretty confident, however, that DNR’s concerns can be mitigated. His plan, he told the RDC, is to show them why alternate alignments — which included a roundabout — wouldn’t work and see what the city can do to reduce the would-be adverse affect on wildlife there.

“Our goal is to justify (our choice) in the alignment (of Felt King Road),” Sprague said. “We’ll say, ‘Yes, it could create an adverse effect, but if we do this, maybe it will make it better.’

“I’m getting all of that together to send to our (engineering) consultant.

Sprague hopes to also pursue Main Street Phase III, which would then take the project out to George Rogers Clark Middle School at Richard Bauer Drive, at about the same time, or 2022.

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