This article originally appeared in the Friday, March 15, 2019 issue of the Progress Times.
Contractors approached the Agua Special Utility District last week with a familiar request.
Problems with groundwater, which started last summer, had delayed the Palmview sewer project — again.
“We’ve been having water table issues,” said Omar Garcia, the president of Edinburg-based OG Construction, who addressed the utility board on March 4. “And so, basically, our production rate has gone from 5 to 7 pipes a day to 1 to 3 pipes a day. And so that’s the reason for our request for extension of time. We’re de-watering daily, 24 hours a day, but it’s an ongoing fight.”
Workers hit water 11 feet below the surface, Garcia said, adding that parts of the project require depths of 26 feet.
“We’re doing all that we can,” Garcia said. “We’re trying to get it done faster than ya’ll want it done.”
After months of delays, though, the utility board didn’t appear sympathetic.
Mercedes-based L&G Construction started work on March 13, 2017, according to documents prepared by S&B Infrastructure, which the utility district hired to supervise the Palmview sewer project.
Under the contract, L&G Construction had until Feb. 5, 2018, to complete the work. The utility board approved 390 days of additional time.
L&G Construction still couldn’t meet the deadline, which passed on March 3. The company requested another 120 days, but the utility board rejected the request.
Nobody from L&G Construction attended the meeting. During a workshop last month, the company blamed the delays on groundwater.
OG Construction, which started work on Sept. 27, 2017, had similar problems. It originally had until Aug. 22, 2018, to complete the work.
The utility board approved two change orders, which added 174 days to the contract period. OG Construction still couldn’t meet the deadline, which passed on Feb. 15.
When he spoke with the utility board, Garcia requested another 60 days. Without any way to predict the weather, however, Garcia said he couldn’t guarantee the work would actually be completed.
“If we get a hurricane in May, beginning of June, and we haven’t finished, we’re going to be hit up with, again, another delay,” Garcia said. “That’s something we can’t control.”
The utility board rejected the request. Board members also rejected a change order from Mercedes-based Jimmy Closner & Sons Construction, which wanted 60 additional days.
When the contract period expires, the contractors face penalties for every day the work remains unfinished.
The utility district will address any financial penalties after the Palmview sewer project is completed, said General Manager Jose E. “Eddie” Saenz, adding that the board doesn’t plan to demand payment from contractors immediately.
“We understand that there’s issues out there,” Saenz said. “But I think we should address those at the end of the project.”