Farmington board tables decision on Front Street project

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FARMINGTON — Selectmen approved two items Tuesday night but tabled another regarding the Front Street improvement project. 

Board Chairman Joshua Bell and Selectmen Stephan Bunker, Michael Fogg and Matthew Smith approved increasing the height of the retaining wall that runs from lower Broadway to near the Thai Smile & Sushi Restaurant at 168 Front St.

Town Manager Richard Davis said because of the slope the wall needs to go higher which adds some cost.

“Despite the delays, the project is still on budget. This is the first real change order,” he said.

During installation of the phase 1 retaining wall, the roots of a maple tree were exposed. Landowner John Moore said arborist Robert Zundel feels the tree will not survive and has recommended it be removed. The roots help stabilize the bank. Two more rows will be added. The second will be a short section of four bricks.

Moore noted the lack of communication on the project. Ranger Contracting of Fairfield was awarded the bid for the first phase of the project. 

“A company’s reputation should play a role when considering the low bid,” Moore said. “A local crew wouldn’t have tried to work on Chester Greenwood Day.”

The estimate for the additional work is about $8,000.

The board also unanimously approved the phase 2 option that includes a sidewalk on the east side of Depot Street, which would cost $242,729. That amount includes $20,000 for retaining walls near 247 and 249 Front St., if needed. 

Following lengthy discussion, the board voted 3-1, with Fogg opposed, to defer a decision on how to proceed with phase 2 of the project until selectmen meet Dec. 11. Options include proceeding with a change order with Ranger for the additional work or putting it out to bid again.

Several board members expressed concern over the amount of work from phase 1 that will need to be completed next spring. 

Davis said rain delays and an early winter affected the project. Moving the Consolidated Communications’ cables was also a factor. 

“Front Street has always been rough. It’s better than it was, overall,” he said.

Selectman Matthew Smith said he wasn’t happy with Ranger.

“I don’t think they performed well. They were gone at 3:30 p.m. day after day. If we do go with them for phase 2 they need to be held accountable,” Smith said.

Selectman Michael Fogg said Ranger was being micromanaged and wasn’t there to respond.

“It sounds like we didn’t vet Ranger. That’s far from the case. We put off a decision, got referrals,” Fogg said.

Davis said he wasn’t interested in placing blame.

“It’s taken a lot longer than anticipated. I want a good quality project when done. I think it is,” he said.

Craig Jordan, a director with Farmington Farmers’ Union, said records showed the organization had 70 fewer customers in one week than last year due to the construction work. Store officials had been told work would not begin on the lower part of Front Street until after the upper part was finished. 

“For a project like this,” Jordan said, “communication is everything.”

The board asked that the contract be reviewed to see if more stringent penalties could be imposed on contractors if work is not completed in a timely fashion for phase 2.

Town Manager Richard Davis said he will meet Thursday with Ranger for a monthly progress report and to share information from Tuesday night’s meeting.

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Farmington selectmen on Tuesday approved a sidewalk on only one side of Front Street and additional work on a retaining wall near lower Broadway. They deferred making a decision on how to proceed with phase 2 of the Front Street improvement project. This file photo shows installation of a culvert on Front Street that was part of phase 1. (Sun Journal file photo)

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