The city of Durango’s most expensive construction project, which has been on time and on budget for almost two years, has fallen behind schedule.
But it isn’t for lack of progress; rather, it’s the extra attention to future efficiencies and longevity of the final product, said City Manager Ron LeBlanc.
At least 64 changes to the original $57.4 million contract between the city and contractors added 150 days of work to the project, extending the estimated completion date from May 31 to Sept. 27, according to an agenda document produced this week as part of a staff update about the construction progress.
The project is 88% complete with $50.5 million of the approved $57.4 million paid to the contractor, according to documents. The 64 change orders, or amendments to the construction contract, cost the city $4.3 million out of a $5.2 million contingency budget, documents show.
Contractors have said they lost time as a result of winter weather, but city staff “don’t agree” with some of those claims, LeBlanc said.
Most of the added time, however, came from city staff requesting more than 50 change orders that each added anywhere from hours to weeks of extra work, LeBlanc said. Those changes, for example, may include spraying old aeration basins with a material to increase longevity of the structure by decades or moving the path of a pipe to make the flow of wastewater more efficient, he said.
City staff have also agreed to build a new administration building for the facility but have yet to sign a contract, LeBlanc said. The administration building was removed from the facility renovation contract to avoid higher costs that come along with using federal dollars for construction projects, LeBlanc said. He said the contract for the administration building could be signed within days.
Durango voters approved $68 million in debt in 2015, giving city staff the funding needed to hire a contractor to redesign the Santa Rita Water Reclamation Facility to meet state standards approved in 2012 that require lower levels of phosphorous and nitrogen in treated wastewater, pollutants that can lead to algae blooms that suffocate fish.
City staff also have plans to renovate Santa Rita Park, but funding for the recreation area may not come until next year. Park construction cannot begin until construction of the administration building is complete, according to minutes from a Parks and Recreation Advisory Board meeting in May. Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Metz did not immediately return calls for comment.