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Mother Nature is the primary reason a North Third Street and First Avenue North improvement project wasn’t completed last fall in Clear Lake.

Bryce Ogea, Heartland Asphalt project manager, told the Clear Lake City Council that significantly higher rainfall totals in September and October delayed the contractor’s progress on the $392,205 project.

“Some of those days we had rainfall or directly after rainfall, we were on site working, but you lose production when you’re working in wet conditions,” he said. “You’re just not going to get as much done as you would in good, dry weather.”

The project was awarded to Heartland Asphalt, of Mason City, in August 2018, and was scheduled to be completed in mid-November. It included milling and resurfacing the existing pavement with an overlay; paving of the east-west alley north of Ge-Jo’s; extending the city’s storm sewer on First Avenue North between North Shore Drive and North Third Street, then south to the east-west alley on North Third Street; replacing water main; replacing existing brick-paver side walk and installing new brick pavers.

Heartland Asphalt completed the project on June 11 — nearly seven months after the completion date outlined in its contract with Clear Lake.

The item appeared before the City Council last week after weeks of unsuccessful negotiations between the city and Heartland Asphalt about liquidated damages since the project wasn’t completed on time.

The original contract stated Heartland Asphalt would be charged $500 per calendar day after Nov. 16. WHKS & Co. Project Manager Chase Holien — in consultation with city staff — recommended charging the contractor based on working days as “a show of good faith in the negotiations.”

Clear Lake City Administrator Scott Flory said the liquidated damages would’ve been “much, much higher” had they been based on the original contract.

A letter from Holien to the City Council dated Aug. 1 states Heartland Asphalt had nine working days after Nov. 16, 2018, and eight working days in 2019, totaling $8,500.

Ogea said he’d pay liquidated damages for work completed in 2019, which is $4,000, because of  “a lot of factors outside our control.”

“This isn’t a case where the project sat idle without progress being made. We made an intentional effort to keep the project moving forward,” he said. “Some days there were up to three contractors on site working at the same time, which can get a little crowded, but, like I said, we were trying to keep things moving.”

At-Large City Councilman Mike Callanan suggested the city compromise and charge Heartland Asphalt for the eight working days in 2019 and half of the working days in 2018, totaling $6,250. The council agreed in a 4-0 vote.

Holien asked the council to also consider the $2,870 materials cost for damage to an existing street light along North Third Street, but he said WHKS didn’t have evidence of how or when the damage occurred.

Clear Lake Public Works Director Joe Weigel said he felt it was Heartland Asphalt’s responsibility to prove that the damage didn’t occur during its work, but Ogea said he has no knowledge or evidence of how it happened.

“I guess if we had some convincing evidence or proof, I would be more than happy to pay for the damage, but I have not seen any,” he said.

The City Council agreed not to assess Heartland Asphalt for the damage to the light because of the ambiguity. The light has been paid for and replaced by the city.

With the council's action, Holien is tasked with processing the final pay application and closing the project on the city's behalf.

Photos: 2019 Up in Smoke BBQ Bash in Mason City

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Reach Reporter Ashley Stewart at 641-421-0533. Follow her on Twitter at GGastewart.

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