Kellogg: Work on Pepper Street project to resume on May 1

Signs mark off the beginning of the Pepper Street Road project, on the northern portion of the roadway, at the intersection with Main Street.

MONROE, CT —- Pepper Street is still littered with orange traffic cones and signs for the ongoing road reconstruction project, but First Selectman Ken Kellogg says the contractor, Grasso Companies LLC, intends to resume work on May 1.

“As we announced last fall, Eversource Gas had to complete work to relocate a gas line, which has been completed,” Kellogg said in his first selectman’s update. “This 500-foot area will be completely regraded, followed by the entire project length getting a final course of pavement.”

He said much of the remaining work will be off road, including completion of the multi-use trail.

“The town is meeting with the state Department of Transportation and the rest of the project team,” Kellogg said. “I share everyone’s desire to see this project come to final completion.”

During last Monday’s Town Council meeting, Kellogg said he is pushing the state for all of the needed approvals for the project.

The $7 million project, which is 90-percent funded by the state and federal government, includes dramatic safety and geometric upgrades to improve sightlines, including lowering the roadway in some areas, according to Kellogg. The scope includes an upgraded traffic signal at the intersection with Main Street, drainage improvements and a complete replacement of the culvert at the Jockey Hollow Road intersection.

There will also be completion of a section of the multi-use trail.

The fact that the project involves an “extensive number of overhead and underground utilities that require relocation” caused delays, as well as supply chain issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Drivers have complained about the length of time it has taken for the Pepper Street project to be completed and Kellogg has also expressed frustration and promised to provide updates to residents throughout.

Last August, when the project seemingly stalled, the Town Council held a special meeting to vote on a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Grasso Companies and the town. The agreement was written by Town Attorney Francis Lieto and unanimously approved by the council.

Settling disputes

The purpose of the MOU agreed to last year is to settle disputes between the contractor and the town, while avoiding “the unnecessary costs and uncertainty of litigation.”

The town agreed to immediately release the undisputed contract balance of $298,492.

There is an additional $130,151 disputed contract balance Grasso seeks and the parties reserve their rights and “will endeavor to resolve the Disputed Contract Balance in a timely fashion,” according to the agreement.

Grasso will provide the town with timely updates and projections on progress of the project, including closures and other important activities as requested by the town.

The town agreed to extend the project completion date to Nov. 15. But the project is still not completed.

Grasso will remit a $93,441 payment to the town for traffic control services/special duty pay for the Monroe Police Department.

Grasso requested a total of “Reserved Claims” not to exceed $445,078 for unanticipated conditions “attributable to utility conflicts with the design, as well as a corresponding time extension request and request for an equitable adjustment arising from certain delays and impacts beyond Grasso’s contract.”

The breakdown is $232,000 in utility relocation costs, $42,349 in fuel escalation, $11,100 in labor escalation, $48,300 in material escalation, $51,600 in vendor escalation, $38,534 in overhead and $21,194 in profit.

The town agreed to pay 10 percent of these costs so long as the state of Connecticut agrees to the requests. But if the state does not, the town will not be held liable.

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