A major sewer project along North Phelps Street that’s been one headache after another for city officials —and those who work and live nearby — has now become more expensive.
The city’s board of control approved $205,668.70 worth of change orders Tuesday for Marucci and Gaffney, the project’s contractor, for work that started in February and was supposed to be done by next month.
Charles Shasho, deputy director of the city’s public works department, said Thursday that he hopes the project is done by the winter.
The change orders are equal to 20.2 percent of the project’s original cost of $1,016,400.31.
The cost is certain to increase again, Shasho said.
The change orders approved Tuesday by the board were for problems discovered in March, primarily related to the locations of utility lines and unexpected improvements needed to manholes and catch basins.
“They’ve had a lot of problems, but it has to be done,” said Mayor Charles Sammarone, board of control chairman.
The project called for the replacement of the North Phelps Street sewer line from West Federal Street to Lincoln Avenue, including the replacement of a pedestrian walkway between West Commerce and West Wood streets.
The project got off to a bad start when Shasho failed to inform all business owners impacted by the major downtown project, drawing complaints from some and a one-day suspension for Shasho.
But the biggest issue was the discovery in March of utility lines, primarily AT&T cables and a duct bank containing telephone conduits, underground directly in the path of the sewer line.
“The amount of unknowns we’ve had on this project is the most I’ve ever seen,” Shasho said.
Making the situation worse is the brick sewer line is at least 100 years old — likely the oldest in the city — and in terrible shape, Shasho said.
“We have a plan in place to finish this project, but it will take time,” he said.
The utility lines problem will further increase the cost of the work again, he said.
“Additional change orders will be needed,” Shasho said. “Relocating utilities is a significant job and this is a major communications network for downtown.”
About 70 percent to 80 percent of the work is done, he said.
The pedestrian walkway needs to be built, and work on North Phelps between West Federal and West Commerce streets need to be done.
That section of Phelps was closed in early February, but with the discovery of the AT&T lines, it was reopened a month later with no work done there. Even with the reopening, the lower eastern portion of the sidewalk on North Phelps remains closed.