Warm temperatures may help Baxter street project

Mild temperatures, even warmer than anticipated earlier, may help a Baxter street project that appeared to have hit a rough patch. Earlier this month, Baxter city staff expressed concern for the quality and endurance of pavement if the contractor...

Mild temperatures, even warmer than anticipated earlier, may help a Baxter street project that appeared to have hit a rough patch.

Earlier this month, Baxter city staff expressed concern for the quality and endurance of pavement if the contractor on the Dellwood Drive and Novotny Road project just off Highway 371 North tried to put down bituminous pavement in 40-degree weather with overcast skies. Looking out at the forecast at the Nov. 3 city council meeting, the outlook made it appear temperatures in the 40 and 30 degree range would prevail along with cloud cover.

Aric Welch, project engineer with Widseth Smith Nolting, said of the projects in the city, Dellwood and Novotny were the ones in trouble. Other areas - Independence Road and Inglewood Drive - were on schedule for completion. The Dellwood and Novotny project was in danger of being forced to suspend work before the final pavement was completed. Language relayed to the city via its consultant Widseth Smith and Nolting left city officials unsure if the contractor R.L. Larson was saying it would only install a temporary roadway for the winter if the city paid an additional $31,000.

"The contractor has indicated they may be willing to reclaim the roadway and incorporate it into the aggregate base for free next spring if work is suspended and liquidated damages are waived," Welch reported to the city at the Nov. 3 meeting.

A sticking point was the air temperature. Welch said it was all dependent upon weather and if the temperatures favored paving. Welch said if the weather didn't cooperate he was in favor of a temporary road for the winter. Welch said sunshine and a temperature in the 40s can work for paving, but if temperatures are in the 30s under cloudy skies he was concerned about the quality of the final product. With the calendar year, Welch said the city was already outside the normal window for paving.


Welch said R.L. Larson would honor bid prices from this year into 2016 if the city granted a time extension and waived damages, which the city estimated could be as high as $300,000.

But a recent warm-up brought a return to the 50s - with a high of 59 degrees in Brainerd on Sunday and Monday - providing relief. Today's high is expected to top out at 55 beneath sunny skies.

Gordon Heitke, city administrator, said Monday an agreement was reached late last week between the city and the contractor. The agreement will officially go before the city council during its Nov. 17 meeting.

The timeline and weather constraints made the good faith agreement necessary in order to have an extension and plans in place for the anticipated paving today. With the added warm temperatures, the plan is to lay down a layer of pavement to get the city through the winter allowing motorists to drive on it through the winter at no additional cost to the city. The contractor will then finish the project in the spring with more pavement and landscaping.

The city met in closed session Nov. 3 to discuss the matter after hearing where the issue stood from WSN. Mayor Darrel Olson said the city was getting to the point where options were fewer and less attractive, but he didn't want to have a gravel road there throughout the winter.

"I think before we make a decision we need to talk to the city attorney just to find out what the process is," council member Mark Cross said.

Olson asked if the city could legally go into a closed meeting at the Nov. 3 council session without providing a meeting notice of that intent. Heitke said he believed the city could do that. Olson said he was concerned about the timeline and the next council session in two weeks. City attorney Brad Person said a lawsuit may be likely from the contractor R.L. Larson. Minnesota Open Meeting law allows a city council to close a meeting for threatened or pending litigation, but not for general consultations with counsel.

Widseth Smith Nolting reported the contractor stated the deadline for substantial completion of Dellwood and Novotny would not be met by Nov. 6. Under the contract, the city could collect liquidated damages for delayed completion in the amount of $1,312 per day, perhaps as much as $300,000 if the work could not be completed until spring or summer of 2016. Widseth Smith Nolting recommended the city council meet with its attorney before pursuing this option.


After the closed session, Person said the result of the discussion was to have city staff, WSN and the contractor meet and talk about a possible change order.

Heitke said the meeting took place at the end of last week. In the agreement both the city and the contractor recognized work would not be substantially complete by Nov. 6 and work may need to be suspended over the winter, delaying the project's completion until 2016.

According to the agreement, work on Independence Road and Inglewood Drive will be substantially complete on or before Nov. 20 and if work is allowed to continue based on weather, the contractor will make every effort to complete the roadway and a bituminous or paved base course on Dellwood Drive and Novotny Road.

If the city's engineer decides the work should be suspended for the winter, the contractor agreed to pave existing bituminous driveways and install the aggregate base. If that work was then deemed unacceptable by the city's engineer, R.L. Larson agreed to remove it and replace it at its expense next spring. A temporary road would be 22 feet wide with a minimum of 4 inches of Class Five aggregate base topped by 1.5 inches of pavement.

If R.L. Larson completes the project to the city's requirements, the city agreed to waive the liquidated damages between the dates of Nov. 6 and May 26, 2016, when the project is slated for completion, barring a need for a future change order to the agreement.

In addition, R.L. Larson proposed using a fiber reinforced matrix for turf establishment, with fertilizer, seed, mulch material, application, maintenance and a written guarantee, instead of sod, which was unavailable. The written guarantee is expected to state the turf will be as good or better than sod next year. Widseth Smith Nolting reported the fiber reinforced matrix provides better erosion protection over winter than temporary mulch, and can be better than sod.

"This will probably save us money in the end," Welch said.

RENEE RICHARDSON, associate editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or . Follow on Twitter at .

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