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Norwich settles with contractor in dispute on cost overruns

By Claire Bessette

Publication: The Day

Published March 21. 2013 4:00AM

Norwich - City officials have reached a settlement with the Branford contractor who rebuilt the city pier and a portion of the Norwich Harbor seawall at the Howard T. Brown Park, with the city agreeing to pay $160,000 for cost overruns caused by deeply submerged boulders and old timbers at the water's edge.

Blakeslee Arpaia Chapman Inc. (BAC) had filed a lawsuit against the city seeking $320,000 for cost overruns, additional seawall work that had to be redone, legal fees and interest. The settlement totals half that amount and must be paid within 15 business days of Monday night's City Council approval.

The $2 million project called for removing and replacing the rotted pier and removing and replacing a portion of the seawall. The city had received a $1 million state grant for half the project cost.

BAC claimed that when crews were driving piles for the foundation of the new pier in October 2008, they unexpectedly struck large stones, called "armor stones," and timber cribbing - perhaps left over from an old wooden bridge or even a ship, city Purchasing Agent William Block said - 10 to 15 feet below the mud line.

The obstructions were not detected during test borings done before construction and caused delays and added labor and materials costs as crews had to clear the pile line. Further delays and higher costs were incurred by cold weather. The submerged stones and timbers also meant significant changes to the engineering and design plans for the new seawall, adding more costs and delays, the company claimed.

Norwich officials and BAC did agree on some change-orders for the project, but could not initially agree on the total amount of the claims, leading to the company's lawsuit. The agreement was worked out during a mediation session March 12, the council resolution said.

According to the council resolution approved unanimously Monday night, the city's insurance company, Travelers Insurance Co., has agreed to pay one-third of the settlement, leaving the city to cover $106,666.67.

The city's portion will be covered through three different fund accounts, Comptroller Joseph Ruffo said. Contingency funds still remaining in the Brown Park City Pier project budget will pay for $20,968.10 of the cost.

Anticipating the potential expense from the claims, the city reserved some money in last year's Public Works Department road improvement capital budget, which will cover $31,092.50. This year's capital budget will pay the remaining $54,606.07 of the city's portion.

c.bessette@theday.com

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