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At 8 a.m. today the Chesterton Utility Service Board voted unanimously to declare the Downtown utility project an “emergency.”

Then to terminate general contractor Rieth-Riley’s contract.

And then to award a new asphalting contract to Rock Solid Paving & Excavating of St. John.

Within minutes of those votes Rock Solid was laying asphalt into the open wound of South Calumet Road.

President Larry Brandt opened the special meeting of the Service Board with this question: has there been any resolution to the strike called on June 9 by Operating Engineers Local 150?

Town Engineer Mark O’Dell said that, to his knowledge, there has not been.

“They had a meeting on Friday,” Member John Schnadenberg said. “I was told they made a little progress. But the strike isn’t over.”

That strike “has put the town in a very bad, awkward position,” Brandt noted, bad enough and awkward enough to warrant the declaration of an emergency on three grounds: the work site is a safety hazard, frequent rains are doing “continued damage” by leeching stormwater through the open ground into foundations and basements, and businesses in the Downtown have been suffering a severe loss of trade.

Those businesses “have been extremely patient,” Brandt added. “But they’ve been planning for completion in early June. This is unacceptable as far as we’re concerned.”

Members accordingly voted 4-0 to declare the Downtown utility project an emergency. Member Scot McCord was not in attendance.

They followed that vote immediately with a second: to terminate, “for convenience,” the balance of Rieth-Riley’s contract. The town may “at its sole discretion”—according to that contract’s language—“terminate the agreement in whole or in part by giving written notice to the contractor,” Associate Town Attorney Chuck Parkinson told the Chesterton Tribune after the meeting.

“Rieth-Riley has done an excellent job,” Schnadenberg said. “And its subcontractors. But this is something that needs to be done.”

Finally, members voted to award a new contract—in the amount of $148,628.45—to Rock Solid.

Queried by Brandt, O’Dell said that the town—per Indiana Code—submitted two invitations to bid: one to Rock Solid, the other to Gallagher Asphalt of Illinois. Gallagher declined to bid, while Rock Solid submitted a unit bid for the amount of product.

The contract with Rock Solid includes prevailing wage protections, as it must per Indiana Code and the bond specs, Parkinson observed,

Is Rock Solid a union company?

The owner said “that they pay prevailing wages,” O’Dell told the Tribune after the meeting.

Where’s the asphalt coming from, given the fact that Local 150 is picketing the asphalt plants in Northwest Indiana?

From Illinois, Utility Superintendent Rob Lovell told the Tribune.

Schnadenberg took a moment at the end of the meeting to thank Harris Welsh & Lukmann and O’Dell “for working with us to get this accomplished.”

“We waited as long as we could,” Schnadenberg said bluntly.

“We were all patient with the situation and the owners of the businesses Downtown were very patient,” Member Jim Raffin added. “We don’t have a choice.”

The original completion date for the Downtown utility project was June 4 but a high number of rain days in May put the job behind schedule. When the strike began on June 9, the only real work left was asphalting, which O’Dell has estimated should take only a few days.



Posted 6/27/2011





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