Watt Road extension deadline rescheduled

While Old Stage Road improvements are winding up roughly two months behind the original construction deadline, a roughly six-month delay constructing Watt Road extension now has a completion deadline of May 30.

Why the delay?

“All utilities were supposed to be out of the way by the end of December [2012],” said Mark McKinnon, co-owner of McKinnon Construction Co., LLC, of Loudon, project contractor with a low bid of $2.1 million in February 2013.

With a November 15, 2013, deadline to have both projects completed, McKinnon said utility delays “were six months,” cutting into his company’s time to complete the project. “We were shut down, we couldn’t do anything.”

While much above average rainfall has made delays worse during 2013 according to McKinnon, he did not blame Lenoir City Utilities Board or any other “delayed” utility because of “reimbursement” concerns.

He questioned if TDOT would reimburse a utility that begins work on a road project before it was let to bid, only to have TDOT delay the project indefinitely and leave the utility with equipment and manpower expenses.

However, Mark Nagi, TDOT Region I Community Relations officer, said in an e-mailed statement: “… LCUB’s facilities were located entirely on private easement, making their utility relocation 100 percent reimbursable regardless of when the project was let to construction.”
Moreover, Mitch Ledbetter, LCUB manager of technical services and utility liaison with TDOT, said about the December 2012 utility relocation date, “That’s the first I’ve heard about it.”

Nagi stated in another e-mail, “The first phase of work to widen Old Stage Road was delayed by utility relocation efforts. On Feb. 20, 2013, TDOT held a meeting with the contractor and all affected utilities to plan and prioritize relocation efforts. Lenoir City Utility Board began relocation efforts first in late February 2013 and was followed by Charter and TDS in that order. Utilities were not relocated until July 2013.”

While McKinnon praised all utilities for “doing exactly what they said” during that February meeting, he added, “We did not get the job in our hands, with all utilities and everything out of the way, until Aug. 4.”

According to McKinnon, utility relocation delays off Old Stage prevented his company from going ahead with Watt Road extension construction because “excavation at Old Stage, that dirt has to come to Watt Road.”

However, moving that dirt was held up because a necessary retaining wall adjacent to the Icearium “couldn’t be built because you had electricity under where the footing goes.” The wall was finally completed in June.

By December 2013, Old Stage Road portion of the project was “basically done,” McKinnon said.