Main Street closed

City workers prepare to complete the extension of a turn lane at the south end of North Main Street. A block of North Main Street was closed Wednesday and will remain closed today.

Work to extend a North Main Street turn lane at Gibbs Street will be completed by city workers, city officials confirmed Wednesday.

Both north- and southbound lanes of North Main Street were closed Wednesday and will remain closed today while the turn lane is being lengthened.

The extension of the turn lane is part of the North Main Street Median project, which has been ongoing throughout the year.

“This was a small project, about $220,000, funded by the city of Del Rio. It’s not a grant or a project paid for from certificates of obligation,” City Public Works Director Alejandro Garcia said Wednesday.

The project contract was awarded to Jess Contracting LLC of Del Rio in December 2017.

“The project had a duration of 180 days, and we felt that time frame was more than adequate to complete the work,” Garcia said.

Garcia said the start of work on the project was delayed because the contractor wanted to use his own concrete plant, even though the contract specified that he use concrete from a state-certified plant.

“He requested, basically, to wait until his (concrete) plant was certified. The city always tries to work with contractors and nurture them, especially if they are local, and he wanted to certify his plant so that it could meet the specifications that were called for in the contract,” Garcia said.

In May, the contractor’s plant had still not been certified, Garcia said, and the city insisted that the work begin.

“Finally, we just told him, ‘We need to get this project going,’” Garcia said.

The contractor began working on the project in early May, said Assistant Public Works Director Hector Chapa.

The project included installation of new curbing around the North Main Street medians, landscaping of those medians and the extension of the turn lane at North Main and Gibbs streets by 60 feet.

“He did the first seven blocks between May to the latter part of June, and then we kind of hit the wall, and everything slowed down,” Chapa said.

The contractor used two subcontractors, a landscaping company from Eagle Pass to do some of the landscaping, and a second to do the stamped concrete work on the ends of the medians, Garcia added.

Garcia said the contractor notified the city in September that he was going to start work on the turn lane extension.

“We asked for an exact date, and he told us it would be the first or second week in October,” he said.

The city was slated to remove some of existing curb just north of the planned extension and did so on Sept. 17.

Difficulty also arose because the contract was slated for completion at the end of October.

Garcia said when it became obvious the contractor would not be finished with the work by then, the city manager recommended to city council to extend the contract by 30 days, and the council voted to do so.

On Oct. 10, the contractor excavated a rectangular area 16 inches deep where the turn lane extension was to be sited.

“The plans called for, to put in an inch-and-a-half of asphalt, eight inches of flex base, and six inches of prepared subgrade. Basically, all the depth that was needed was nine inches, and he dug almost twice that,” Chapa said.

City officials became concerned that a vehicle could accidentally veer into the excavation and roll over, Chapa added.

“He excavated more than was necessary, without notifying us. The contractor contended that the subgrade material was unsatisfactory, but we never had the opportunity to agree or disagree whether it was or not,” Garcia said.

Garcia said numerous emails have been sent to the contractor and meetings held to inform him “the work was languishing.”

“We tried to work with him. During the last part of November, it became obvious that the work was no longer progressing,” Garcia said.

He noted Interim City Manager Manuel Chavez issued an order terminating the contract Tuesday.

“The order basically says the contractor shall not continue the work, order materials and should not place orders for equipment, anything that affects cost,” Garcia said.

He noted about $100,000 has been paid to the contractor, and the $120,000 remaining in the contract budget should be enough for the city to complete the job.

Chapa said leveling and grading work on the turn lane should be completed in a few days.

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