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Million dollar delay? Payment paused amid questions over road construction delay costs

1 month 5 hours 22 minutes ago Wednesday, January 27 2021 Jan 27, 2021 January 27, 2021 7:06 PM January 27, 2021 in News
Source: WBRZ

DENHAM SPRINGS- A project that was supposed to be completed last month is now projected to be completed in two years. This delay could cost taxpayers nearly a million dollars.

The State Department of Transportation and Development was getting ready to process a change order in the amount of $858,316 for the delay. But, that has been paused for now, as officials review the legitimacy.

In February 2018, the state let the Juban Road roundabout project out for bid. It was awarded in March. The project was to take 261 days to finish, but as of now, only some land grubbing has been done.

Concerned about increased costs, the state hired an accounting firm that worked with Kort's Construction to come up with the amount of overhead for the delay. Kort's agreed with the findings of the report but said they had moved on to other work as the project dragged on. Emails suggest Kort's would not be able to start the roundabout until at least June of 2021.

"There are issues with this project and the roundabout in terms of delays," Dr. Shawn Wilson with DOTD said. "Utilities are not uncommon to create those delays, and our contract requires that we pay for those delays that are unforeseen or out of the scope of what that low bid was awarded for."

Internal state emails obtained by the WBRZ Investigative Unit show workers assigned to this project were in the process of developing a change order to compensate for the delay. But, concerns over the amount with hardly any work that was done and the itemized list for things were concerning. Among some of them: office janitorial cleaning, office groceries, and travel/lodging.

"They have a right to make whatever claims they choose to make," Wilson said. "We have a right to respond and review those using our standard auditing procedures before making those payments."

So far, DOTD says the state hasn't paid the bill yet. They are determining what expenses they'll cover.

"When there are delays that are unforeseen we have an obligation to treat them fairly as a business partner and compensate them for things we have a responsibility for that we can't control, likewise they have a responsibility to do the best they can," Wilson said.

Entergy and KCS need to move utilities in order for the project to begin.

The project includes two phases. One is the roundabout at Juban Road and Highway 190. Phase 2 will widen Juban from the interstate to 190. The cost of the total project exceeds $20 million.

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