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City to charge Tom's Backhoe for delay

The Brainerd City Council voted Tuesday to assess damages of $11,000 against Tom’s Backhoe based on the number of working days it took to complete a project beyond the allowable time.

Jeff Hulsether, city engineer, said the contractor, Tom’s Backhoe, didn’t have adquate manpower or equipment on site to complete the South Seventh Street project on time. Work started on the project on July 18. Construction work involved Center Point Energy’s gas crew to relocate a gas main. Tom’s Backhoe removed the road’s surface, relocated the water main and reconstructed the sanitary sewer between Vine and Willow streets. Hulsether reported the contractors worked at the same time in the same area for three weeks, which undoubtedly slowed the progress with the relocation of the gas main. Hulsether said the issue of the street being ready to pave four weeks before it was because of staff delay was partially true. Hulsether said they didn’t want the city to be paved without work behind the curb completed, such as turf restoration, because it generally results in damage to the new road. In his report to the city, Hulsether said even after granting an extra 15 working days as a benefit of the doubt for delays associated with the gas main relocation, the contractor went beyond the deadline by 11 days. The contract for the South Seventh Street project was valued at between $500,000 and $1 million. The damage assessment was charged at $1,000 per day to reach the $11,000 figure to cover the city’s additional expenses, Hulsether reported.

In a letter to the city, Tom Thompson of Tom’s Backhoe of Brainerd said Center Point Energy was to have relocated the gas lines before the project started, which was taken into consideration with the bid.

“We sent out crews elsewhere because the gas company was not able to stay ahead of us and additional expenses have been incurred for Tom’s Backhoe Service by this delay,” Thompson wrote. “It is the city’s responsibility to make sure its utilities it permits meets their obligations on these types of projects.”

Council member Lucy Nesheim said with extenuating problems, the project should be judged by how it looked when it was completed not the few days longer that may have been taken.

Council member Kelly Bevans said the city engineer made a good argument regarding how liquidated damages applied in the contract. The motion passed on a 5-1 vote, with Nesheim opposed.

RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at 855-5852 or

Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
(218) 855-5852