Rain delays construction

Tuesday, June 17, 2008 | 11:10 p.m. CDT; updated 3:13 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Storms and flooding keeps construction workers from working at the new Retina Associates Eye Surgeons Clinic construction site.

COLUMBIA — For most Columbians, the 25 inches of rain this year have resulted in wet, muddy days that are just an annoyance at times.

But for frustrated builders and contractors, the muck and mire are wreaking havoc on construction projects.

Muddy sites and dousing rains can mean longer working hours, lost days of work, larger financial losses and anxious clients wondering when their building will be finished.

Wayne Huebert, president of Huebert Builders, said the rain has affected all of his company’s projects, such as the new Retina Associates of Missouri clinic at the corner of Woody Lane and Amron Court and the recently renovated Missouri Theatre.

“We’ve had very few full days,” Huebert said. “Sustained weather situations create blips that we have to work through and it becomes a little more cumbersome.”

This spring’s poor weather conditions have resulted in longer days and a smaller bottom line for Huebert and his employees as they work to get delayed projects back on schedule. Huebert said he didn’t feel comfortable stating the exact loss his company has incurred on the Retina Associates clinic but did say the cost of excavation and concrete work is 20 percent above the average. But Huebert’s biggest concern is inconveniencing clients who have done business with him.

“We’ve been through weather situations before,” Huebert said of the Retina Associates clinic. “We base our estimates on the average cost of projects. This project will cost more than that. We just absorb it (the cost) and go on. Our biggest concern is negative effect on clients. They have planned relocation and moving. It creates hardship on their businesses.”

The city of Columbia and Boone County are encountering similar problems involving both basic maintenance work and large-scale projects. Public Works spokeswoman Jill Stedem said that city projects like repairing and pouring concrete, fixing broken curbs, mowing weeds and street striping have all been set back by rainfall. The Sewer District 154 Maupin-Edge-wood Storm Drainage project and the Chateau Road extension have been particularly affected. Both projects are two to three months behind schedule. The Sewer District 154 project is currently 59 percent complete and the Chateau Road Extension has not been started. The estimated combined cost of the projects is $695,000. Boone County Public Works Director David Mink said that while county pavement repair projects have not been affected, some bridge and culvert construction will have to wait until drier weather arrives. For example, a planned bridge on River Road, slated to cost $250,500, has been postponed until the Missouri River recedes. Construction on an existing bridge on Rolling Hills Road and a culvert on Lake of the Woods Road has also been delayed. Mink estimated that some projects may not get under way until July.

Mink said the county would wait to begin construction rather than starting and stopping projects in order to avoid unnecessary road closures.

Financially, the burden for public construction delays lies not on the city or county, but with the companies responsible for completing the project. In short, the onus is on builders to fulfill the terms of the contract or risk losing money.

“Contractors have more of a financial impact than the city,” Stedem said. “They are given a specific time period to work within and to complete a project, which is why it is in their best interest to finish projects in a timely manner.”

Both county and city officials are hoping for an extended period of dry weather in order to get projects back on track. But with storm systems seemingly passing through every week, it’s been an uphill battle.

“One inch of rain would set a job back two or three days,” Stedem said.

But some businesses owners, like Mike Tompkins of Tompkins Construction are more concerned with the falling economy than the falling rain.

“It’s been a little bit irritating,” Tompkins said. “Surely a drought is right around the corner, don’t you think? We just work a little when it’s dry and wait when it rains. It’s having an effect but it’s not so busy so it doesn’t matter as much. The market here is kinda slow.”

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