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Will impasse on restoration project end pact?



Published: Fri, September 1, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



The project was originally locked in a dispute over additional materials needed because of termite damage.

By ED RUNYAN

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- Trumbull County commissioners are expected to vote today to end their contract with BECDIR Construction Co. of Berlin Center, the general contractor working on the $1 million Newton Falls Covered Bridge restoration project.

Jason Earnhart, assistant county prosecutor, said John Latell, county engineer, asked for a meeting of the commissioners so they could vote to end the contract because negotiations with BECDIR have reached an impasse.

Earnhart said he didn't know whether there are plans to immediately hire a replacement contractor.

Commissioner Paul Heltzel said it is likely that commissioners will follow Latell's recommendation.

The county and BECDIR have been at odds over the project since BECDIR began work on the historic bridge in July 2005. Construction on the project came to a halt in February.

Included in the dispute is a lawsuit the company filed in Franklin County Common Pleas Court in March. The commissioners hired a Columbus law firm to represent the county in the dispute, which centered on additional materials BECDIR said were needed to complete the job and other issues.

Original contract

BECDIR's original contract called for the company to be paid $827,506 to replace the siding, roof, deck planking, floor beams, most of the sidewalk and some of the truss timbers and steel piers. Money for the work was coming from a $1,061,800 federal grant through the County Engineers Association of Ohio.In May, it appeared issues had been resolved when commissioners approved a change order for $212,000 to buy more materials. The additional money came from the grant the engineer's office received for the project, Latell said.

The project had originally been set for spring 2006 completion.

Randy Smith, deputy engineer with the county engineer's office, said he could not confirm any details on the reasons for today's meeting. But he said work on the bridge had resumed in the spring and had progressed normally until a couple weeks ago.

The bridge has been closed to traffic since construction started last year.

How it got delayed

David DiRusso, BECDIR's owner, said the project got off track in February because of unexpected termite damage that was discovered in the structure after the project began. He said county officials didn't act on the problem by ordering additional beams.

Another dispute arose over changes to the project the county engineer's office demanded of his company during the construction. These were changes to the flooring, sidewalk and also to the structure's profile, DiRusso said.

DiRusso said the bridge has a cross-slope that the county wanted removed, and that the county wanted an incline added that was not in the original plans.

The bridge, built in 1831 and located on Arlington Street over the east branch of the Mahoning River, is the second-oldest covered bridge in Ohio and the last covered bridge in Ohio still being used in its original location.

runyan@vindy.com




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