Pepper Street project: What ‘substantially complete’ means

A work crew operates along a rough stretch of Pepper Street.

MONROE, CT — Many drivers who have been rumbling along the gravel section of Pepper Street amid orange cones, bulldozers, dump trucks and rollers are frustrated over the length of time it’s taking to finish the road improvement project.

According to an agreement between the contractor, Grasso Companies, LLC, and the town, the project will be substantially complete by Nov. 15. But what does “substantially complete” mean?

The project calls for the widening of Pepper Street at the intersection with Main Street.

“It will be a drivable road, paved, curbed with drainage done,” First Selectman Ken Kellogg said. “It looks like a finished product. There will just be some smaller items that need to be addressed.”

For example, Kellogg said that could mean replanting of grass still needs to be done. The only thing pending would be punch list items that do not affect the road conditions.

When the road is substantially complete it will have also passed inspections, according to Kellogg.

On Friday morning, the Town Council held a special meeting to vote on a memorandum of understanding between Grasso Companies and the town. The agreement was written by Town Attorney Francis Lieto and unanimously approved by the council.

“We wanted to get this project moving forward very aggressively,” Kellogg said. “We’d gotten a lot of complaints when the project seemingly stalled.”

The first selectman said he shares townspeople’s frustrations over delays in completing the roadwork.

The $7 million project, which is 90-percent funded by the state and federal government, involves an “extensive number of overhead and underground utilities that require relocation.”

Kellogg said supply chain issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic also delayed work.

He said the good news is that work is progressing, but the bad news is the north end of Pepper Street is currently a construction zone with a dirt road in some areas.

The first selectman said he will provide updates to residents throughout the project.

The project includes dramatic safety and geometric upgrades to improve sightlines, including lowering the roadway in some areas, according to Kellogg. The intersection at Main Street will have an upgraded traffic signal installed, there will be 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.

“It’s a good project for the town,” Kellogg said.

Settling disputes

Just beyond this point in the 500 block of Pepper Street the road is unpaved and bumpy.

The purpose of the MOU 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.

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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