Congratulations to Douglas and Jefferson county commissioners for using both a carrot and a stick to try to ensure contractors complete repairs as quickly as possible to a bridge across the Kansas River.
The bridge, which provides an important link between Lecompton in Douglas County and Perry in Jefferson County, was closed last week to allow work to begin on the redecking project. Having the bridge closed will be a major headache for Perry and Lecompton residents who share a school district and many other ties and will be forced to travel lengthy detours during the bridge work.
There was considerable disagreement over whether it would be better to keep one lane of traffic moving over the bridge during construction. Jefferson County commissioners favored that option, but Douglas County commissioners said keeping the bridge open would create some safety problems along with increasing both the time and cost of the project. Douglas County already was paying for the lion's share of the work and finally decided to pay for the entire project if Jefferson County officials wanted to bow out.
Now, the two counties have reached an agreement that has Douglas County paying 89 percent of the cost and Jefferson County paying 11 percent, based on their respective property valuations. Perhaps the best part of the deal, however, is that Jefferson County's contribution will be used to provide additional incentives to complete the bridge work ahead of schedule.
The contract with A.M. Cohron and Son Inc. already called for the company to lose $10,000 a day for every day past Aug. 10 that the bridge was not open. This week, Douglas County commissioners voted to add an incentive package that would allow the contractors to earn an additional $10,000 a day (up to $100,000) for every day they beat the Aug. 10 deadline.
Its seems that it used to be more common to offer not only penalties for late completion but also rewards for early completion of major infrastructure projects. The need to finish the Lecompton bridge work as quickly as possible - and certainly before the start of the 2007-08 school year - justifies a two-pronged incentive for the contractor, and commissioners were smart to take that action.
It will be a good deal for everyone - the counties, the contractor and the residents - if the contractor collects the full $100,000 for completing this project well ahead of its target date.