Streetscape: Where's the construction activity?

While visitors to downtown Center have yet to see construction on the long-awaited streetscape revitalization project, officials assure motorists and business owners that work should be starting soon.

“The contractor is ordering equipment and materials and getting ready to mobilize,” City Manager Chad Nehring told city council on Monday. “We anticipated today (Monday) that they were going to start with equipment on the ground."

Regardless of when the work starts, Nehring said the contractor has 365 days from the start date of the contract with the city for the work to be completed. He said the contract went into effect on Sept. 2.

“This weekend we got notice that there were a couple of revisions to both the irrigation and electrical that were done as part of value engineering to adjust the total scope and scale of the contract,” he said on Monday.

“Those (changes) delayed mobilization for the contractor for another week,” Nehring said. “At this point we're going to inquire as to their definitive date with the Poultry Festival coming up and the Doo Dah, perhaps two weeks at this point would be more valuable to go ahead and just delay ripping anything up. We should find out more later this week.”

The public was originally told work on the downtown streetscape project would start in July, immediately after the What-A-Melon Festival. That start date got delayed after the project was put out for bids and the low bid came in substantially higher than estimates and what was budgeted for the project.

That resulted in officials making some changes in the contract to bring it in on or under budget. Then, the Texas Department of Transportation got involved and announced the agency wanted to do a traffic study for 30 days to help determine if traffic lights were still needed.

TxDOT then extended their study by another 30 days, resulting in even more delays in the start of the project. The result of those two 30-day delays was that TxDOT deemed traffic around the downtown square would best be served by stop signs at all four intersections rather than with red, yellow and green traffic signals or flashing red stop lights at all four intersections.

On Monday Nehring said the contractor got revised irrigation and electrical plans for the streetscape project, which were part of the changes made to the project in order to get the total cost in line with budget. Those changes resulted in the contractor making changes in the scope of their work.

Nehring said for some of the material used in the project, such as the paver bricks to be used, there is a six-to-eight week lead time from the day the material is ordered for production until they are delivered.

The Center City Council in June voted unanimously vote to approve a revised bid on the project that came in at $3.869 million. The acceptance came with the stipulation Texas Department of Transportation gives its stamp of approval to the project once a traffic study involving traffic signals around the square being conducted is complete.

At that time Nehring said the project remains above the original project budget by about $250,000. But with low interest bond rates approved with the sale of certificates of obligation at the June 10 meeting, “the annual payments will remain lower than originally projected even with the additional funds allocated to the project,” he said.