Friday, May 2 – Sidewalk Project Cost Continues To Climb

BERLIN – The ever-increasing cost of the Flower St. sidewalk project has gone up another $100,000 in the last month, pushing the project over budget by roughly $31,000 at the latest count.

At the end of March, town staff reported the total cost of the new sidewalk along the side of Flower St. as $488,000. At Monday’s Berlin Town Council meeting, Administrative Director Linda Bambary reported that the cost has reached $586,000.

“It will be over budget,” Bambary said. “I’m about $30,000 over what I estimated.”

There is still some wiggle room, she said, as final costs will not be tallied until all work is completed, but the change from those final calculations is not likely to bring the project in under budget.

“The contingency’s gone. That’s beyond the contingency,” Bambary said.

Berlin is responsible for $411,000 of the bill for the sidewalk work. A state Community Development Block Grant for $175,000 will pay the remainder.

“We’re talking about over $400,000,” said Council member Paula Lynch. “My point is for the general public to understand that amount of money.”

The work began in November and was scheduled to finish up in January and February, but bad weather and additional work have dragged out the project timeline.

“It should be done by the middle of May,” Bambary said. “It could be done by the end of next week.”

The council approved another change order Monday night for $30,000 to pay for the milling of one travel lane, from the center of the road to the edge of the curb to improve drainage.

“We do feel it would be a benefit to the street to do milling to the curb,” Bambary told the council. “The road in certain places will be higher or lower than the curb.”

“Are these things that should have been possibly seen upfront?” asked Berlin Mayor Tom Cardinale. Bambary did not think so.

Contractor American Paving will take on $11,000 of the milling costs because the original plans called replacement or patching of a certain amount of the road surface to be milled. Grass planting on the disturbed yards behind the sidewalks and clean up must be finished before the project is truly complete.

The Flower St. sidewalk was never meant to cost so much. The original CDBG grant of $175,000 was intended to completely fund a smaller sidewalk project on the other side of the street, to connect existing bits and pieces of walkway into a coherent whole.

The decision to switch the sidewalk to the east side and extend the length upped the price and then the discovery of a need for engineering, stormwater, driveways and other work increased it again.

The neighborhood is not waiting for full completion of all project details to enjoy the walkways residents have been asking for these last 30 years.

“I noticed there were several seniors walking on that sidewalk who wouldn’t ordinarily be there,” Cardinale said of a recent visit to the street.

Councilman Elroy Brittingham is pushing for county funding to build a sidewalk on the opposite side of the street as well. The town sought that money as part of their formal county funding request earlier this spring.

Flower St. needs another sidewalk because it is a busy roadway, Brittingham feels, citing 20 school buses, 15 county transit buses, Head Start buses, and cars carrying teachers, parents, and students to and from the local schools, which often cut over Flower St. instead of going around by Routes 50 and 113.

Money will be tight in local budgets this year, however, and the County Commissioners have said they are not likely to fund new projects in this budget.