Charles Mull moved into his Mitchell Street home last April and has been unhappy with delays on a sidewalk project and the lack of communication between the city, contractors, utility companies and residents.
“I came in and gave it a couple of months, and I saw no activity,” Mull said. “I started attending city council meetings, making calls… because I just want to protect my property.”
Mull and other new homeowners near downtown Flowery Branch will have to wait at least five more months after a contractor failed to order materials in time.
The contractor, Summit Construction and Development, LLC, was told to order material needed to build a retaining wall along Mitchell Street in early December, Rich Edinger, vice president at engineering firm CPL, told Flowery Branch City Council. He found out just before the Feb. 3 meeting that Summit had still not ordered the necessary materials.
“There’s no excuse; he made a mistake,” Edinger said. “I don’t know why he didn’t understand that after signing the change order that specifically stated that he had to order the Tremron block he did not go ahead and do so. He said it was an error on his part.”
They will likely not have the block for 14-16 weeks due to supply issues, Edinger said, extending the project well past its contract end date on April 7. The city would then charge liquidated damages, Edinger said, which could result in thousands of dollars paid out to the city. The total project cost is $252,643, and delays will not raise the cost.
Once materials are secured, construction would take six weeks, Edinger said, putting the completion date sometime in July, three months later than the city agreed to.
“Make sure he or she understands the seriousness of this and how long it’s been,” Mayor Ed Asbridge told Edinger at the meeting.
Mitchell Street, just south of the city’s downtown area, has seen a revitalization of late with several houses and townhomes springing up in a part of town that was rundown. Former Mayor Mike Miller had described the area as “blight,” before new construction transformed the area. Some homes being built on Mitchell Street plan to sell in the low $600,000s.
The city’s plan to address drainage issues and construct a multi-use trail on Mitchell Street has been going on for more than a year, Edinger said. When new homes were built, they encroached upon where the city planned construction of the trail, he said, and the elevations were too steep, so a retaining wall was needed, causing delays.
The current condition of Mitchell Street has been an eyesore for months, and heavy rain can cause runoff issues for neighbors, Mull said. Residents were told last fall that materials had been ordered and expected that construction would finish some time this spring. Now, Mull doesn’t expect work to be done until deep into the summer.
“(Communication) has been poor at best,” he said. “We don’t hear anything from the city, nothing, unless I pick up the phone and start making calls.”
Summit’s owner, Ruben Duran, told The Times he has not received proper communication from the city after the desired material was changed last December. He ordered the block last week, he said, but could not provide a timeline for when it would come in because of supply issues with a manufacturer, which have been common for construction projects over the last year.
“It was just a little miscommunication, but we did everything we could on our end,” Duran said.
Part of the delays have come from Georgia Power, which has had to acquire easements from residents and must move its power lines before sidewalk work can be done. City Manager Tonya Parrish said the utility company has also been waiting on concrete poles it must install, which it plans to have in the first week of March.
“They are planning to have boots on the ground here to begin that work the second week of March,” Parrish said.
Summit can’t start much of its work until Georgia Power does its part first.
“We’re the ones paying the penalties by having the project on hold for so long,” Duran said. “I haven’t gotten any information as far as when the power lines will be moved.”
Mull said he’s hopeful that communication with the city will improve with a full-time city manager in place since last December. The city had an interim city manager for about six months after Bill Andrew was asked to resign in May.
At the city council’s last meeting, Asbridge said the city was planning to post updates of major projects on its website and at city hall.