For years, Fry’s Spring resident Jeanne Chase has been asking for the city of Charlottesville to make her street safer for pedestrians.
But now that work to improve Old Lynchburg Road is nearing completion, the retired teacher wants answers from the city about what she considers to be shoddy work by the project’s former contractor.
“The neighborhood goal on this project has been to complete this project with the wise expenditure of taxpayer money,” she said at Monday’s City Council meeting. “The neighborhood wants a project that is both functional and durable. We do not want the city to pay for inferior construction.”
The lowest bidder on the project to improve drainage and add sidewalks on the heavily traveled corridor was $1.245 million from Finley Asphalt and Sealing of Manassas.
Chase said that as a result of the work, storm drains don’t work, sidewalks show signs of breaking and asphalt incorrectly was laid.
“It does not appear that these deficiencies were ever documented in the project records,” Chase said.
Jim Tolbert, the city’s director of neighborhood development services, said Finley’s workers incorrectly laid asphalt over mud.
“The contractor took it upon himself one day to lay down approximately 400 tons of asphalt after our inspectors had told him not to,” Tolbert said. “They put it down and we made them go down and pull it out.”
Representatives with the company did not respond to requests for comment.
Tolbert said there is remaining work to be done on the project, but Vess Construction will do the work at a cost of $54,000 as the contract with Finley has been terminated.
City engineer Tony Edwards said in an email that Finley has been paid around $1.2 million to date for the work, including $38,000 in change orders that added to the total cost of the project, exceeding the lowest bid.
“The City is still holding $85,585 in retainage on any unpaid contract work,” Edwards said.
The project budget originally was $3.5 million but the scope was changed after property owners were successful in their request to not have the project extend to Azalea Park.
“There was concern about the number of large trees that would be lost in that area and their requirement to shovel snow,” Tolbert said.
Councilor Bob Fenwick questioned the city’s responsiveness to residents’ concerns.
“It’s no big secret that the people who live along Old Lynchburg Road are not happy with how you have responded to complaints and concerns,” Fenwick said.
Tolbert responded that the design for the project was made with significant input from the neighborhood.
“I think we had seven meetings with the neighborhood on the design issues over the course of time to get to a design the neighborhood liked,” Tolbert said. “I think when we get done with this, we’ll have a good product, but it was painful getting here.”
Jeff Greer, president of the Fry’s Spring Neighborhood Association, said he has had good communications with the city engineer.
“That being said, I still think we need to do some more stuff together to make [communications] even better. “I think that the [repair] lists we have going on right now are great, but I think folks are waiting for the other shoe to drop,” Greer said.