• Work crews install pipe along U.S. 17 near Horselanding Road Tuesday afternoon as part of project to expand the highway from two lanes to four. (CHRIS DeVITTO / Palatka Daily News)

Construction Headaches

Confusion amid highway expansion

CRESCENT CITY — Construction on U.S. 17 as part of a state Department of Transportation’s four-lane expansion is causing unplanned financial headaches for Crescent City Gas Authority.

During a recent Crescent City commission meeting, City Manager Patrick Kennedy told commissioners about several conflicts caused by the gas line’s relocation due to road construction.

“Our gas company has had to relocate gas lines as a result of that project, and its starting to wind down for us, but I wanted to go over three key items,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy said on July 12, a new regulator was installed in East Palatka at the main gate station where gas comes in from Texas and Louisiana.

“That was completed (July 12) without any major hiccups,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy said there was a conflict where the gas authority transitions from an existing 6-inch steel main.

“It’s a conflict with the stormwater structure that is being installed as part of the roadwork,” Kennedy said. “It does appear it’s either our contractor and/or engineer. It’s not (the department of transportation). It’s our work, our design.”

Kennedy said options include reinstalling the line or redesigning the stormwater outlet.

Commissioner Barbara Scholl questioned the city’s responsibility in bearing the financial burden for the fix.

“Even if it ends up being the contractor or the engineer’s fault, it’s going to be our pocketbook?” Scholl asked.

Kennedy said the city would have to pay in theory, but if the contractor were at fault, he would not charge for the cost. Likewise, if the engineer were found to be at fault, he would pay the costs associated with making the change.

“Whose fault was it?” Commissioner Harry Banks asked.

“I don’t really want to say,” Kennedy responded. “They’re still working on it and there seems to be a little blame to go around. … I don’t want to point fingers.”

Kennedy said if there was a fault in the design, it would be considered a breach in the contract.

If the line has to be replaced, Kennedy said, it would be about 1,000 feet of new line at a cost of about $30,000.

Kennedy said in a related matter, Florida Power and Light’s subcontractor Musgrove punctured the gas main in East Palatka a few months ago while putting wood electrical poles in place.

Kennedy said damages are estimated to be about $7,542, before attorney’s fees and costs.

“We made some minor headway,” Kennedy said. “But, they are not fully stepping up to the plate. I would like to authorize to file a lawsuit if necessary.”

City attorney Jay Asbury said the companies have an insurance adjustor involved and the insurer has offered 40 percent of the cost of repair.

“There are allegations that it’s our fault,” Asbury said. “That our crew or one of our crew members didn’t mark the area to be drilled in when asked to do so. Our position is they came unannounced and we didn’t know they were going to drill.”

“But, there was a sign there, whether we marked it or not, denoting that’s where the line was,” Scholl said.

Scholl motioned, which was approved by commissioners to move forward with a lawsuit if deemed appropriate by Kennedy and Asbury. Mayor Joe Santa was not present during the meeting.

Kennedy also updated commissioners on relocating the gas line for the Dunns Creek bridge crossing.

The project was originally scheduled by the transportation department for 2022, but was moved to 2017, with a request that the gas line completed by April.

Kennedy said the project is about 9,000 feet long and will involve a directional bore under Dunns Creek.

“I’ve already told (transportation department) we’re not sure that’s reasonable,” Kennedy said. “We’ll do what we can to get there as fast as we can because they are going to pay for it.”

Kennedy said the cost estimate is about $1.4 million.

To move forward, Kennedy said, he needed approval to solicit bids for qualified engineers for the gas line relocation.

Commissioners approved the motion unanimously.

Palatka Daily News

1825 St. Johns Ave.
Palatka, FL 32177
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