City engineers are recommending that a portion of the roadwork at the Rock Chalk Park sports complex be torn out and rebuilt after crews employed by Lawrence contractor Thomas Fritzel disregarded warnings that the project wasn't being built correctly.
A new City Hall report found that a Nov. 30 concrete pour at the northwest Lawrence sports park proceeded even after city-hired inspectors told contractors that the rebar and other structures to support the streets didn't meet city standards or specifications.
"That is an issue," Mayor Mike Dever said of the report's findings. "You won't get any argument from me on that point. We're not going to pay a construction management firm to tell us how to do this, and then let the contractors do it however they are going to do it."
Bliss Sports, a Lawrence company controlled by Fritzel, is conducting the work as part of an unusual no-bid contract with the city that totals about $12 million. The contract calls for the city to pay for infrastructure work — such as streets, parking lots and utilities — for both the city's 181,000-square-foot recreation center and the private track and field, soccer and softball stadiums that will be owned by one of Fritzel's company. The sports stadiums will be leased to Kansas University.
City Hall officials said they have been pleased with the quality of the work performed thus far by Bliss, but said the Nov. 30 concrete pour was concerning.
"The city's position is that the work is unacceptable, and the work has to be replaced," City Manager David Corliss said.
The work involved portions of the concrete that connects Rock Chalk Parkway, George Williams Way and an access road on the site. It wasn't immediately clear how much it may cost the contractor to replace the material.
It also was unclear whether Fritzel had agreed to remove and replace the concrete.
"If something was not done to standards it obviously will have to be rectified," Fritzel said.
But Fritzel said he wasn't on the job site the day of the pour and he said he wasn't yet ready to concede that the work wasn't done correctly.
"I will stand behind any of the work out there," Fritzel said. "It is quality work."
Fritzel said he didn't have an explanation for why crews decided to proceed with the project despite being told by inspectors that the site hadn't been prepared properly.
City officials said the Nov. 30 pour has been the biggest issue related to construction quality they have encountered with Bliss thus far. But past inspection reports on the project have noted other discrepancies. A previous report noted that the thickness of the concrete on portions of George Williams Way, the main road leading into the sports complex, was not as great as the city's contract required. The contract called for 10 inches of concrete, but city inspectors measured only 9 inches to 9.5 inches in most locations.
City Engineer David Cronin said he likely would not recommend that George Williams Way be torn up and rebuilt. He said the new street meets the city's minimum standards but falls short of the enhanced standards the city had sought as part of the project. He said he would recommend the city deduct an undetermined amount of money from the project to compensate for the lesser quality work.
An inspection sheet in September also shows that the amount of sub-grade used on several of the complex's parking lots was less that the contract called for. In one instance, inspectors tested seven different locations, each time finding that the amount of crushed gravel to support the concrete was lacking by anywhere from a quarter of an inch to two inches.
"I don't think it has been anything intentional on the part of the contractors," Cronin said. "And we have had areas where pavements have come in thicker than expected, too. The vast majority of work out there has been acceptable."
Corliss said he plans to brief commissioners on the construction issues at the complex at Tuesday's City Commission meeting.
Commissioner Mike Amyx, the lone commissioner who voted against the the no-bid contract arrangement with Bliss Sports, said he wants to make sure that the city doesn't pay Fritzel's firm for any of the infrastructure work until the entire project has been completed to the city's satisfaction.
Corliss confirmed that the city hasn't yet paid for the Nov. 30 pour, and a payment isn't scheduled to be made until the end of the project.