McEuen progress

Despite obstacles, officials hope to have reconstructed park finished on time

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An aerial view of McEuen Park. Aerial services provided by Big Country Helicopters (www.bigcountryhelicopters.com) and pilot Jim Van Sky.

COEUR d'ALENE - McEuen Park, just like any large construction project, has had a few setbacks but those involved with its makeover say they are doing their best to keep it on track to finish on time and on budget.

"There has been a myriad of issues," said Dean Haagenson, CEO of Contractors Northwest Inc. "Some of those would extend this out far beyond the end of May, but the city, the contractor and the design team are working to complete the project on time.

"It's going to be tight, but it is doable and we are going to suck it up and make it happen."

Haagenson said there have been project delays that could wind up pushing the project back, and there may be other unforeseen circumstances that delay the project in the future, but for now they are committed to getting things wrapped up sometime in May.

Coeur d'Alene City Engineer Gordon Dobler said the city has not changed the contractual deadline of May 2 even though the contractor said it may take a little longer to complete.

The city is going to look for efficient ways to speed up the project before making any changes to the completion date, he said.

The McEuen Park makeover began last April. Its original completion date was set for this coming March, but unforeseen setbacks pushed the project to its current scheduled completion date of May 2.

"Frontier had a problem with relocating some of its infrastructure, when the parking garage was on a critical path," Dobler said. "That set the project back about 45 days."

Another issue with the parking garage arose when the city realized that Front Street needed to be built to bridge standards over the garage, so the contractor needed to add more rebar, reinforcing steel bar material, to the deck.

"We had to add 170,000 pounds of rebar," Haagenson said. "You just can't get that much rebar overnight."

Dobler said that set the project back another week or so. The other major setback was when they hit bedrock while laying the foundation for the Harbor House.

"Rather than spend a lot of money blasting through bedrock, we had to raise it up," he said, adding that redesign included building up walls and adding stairs to the structure.

Other things like coordinating the relocation of utilities such as water mains, sewer lines and stormwater infrastructure also presented challenges.

Haagenson said from his perspective there have been countless design adjustments that combined have cost them some time as well.

"And there is one other thing coming up that we haven't talked about but needs to be discussed," he said. "That's hydroseeding."

Haagenson said portions of the park will need to be hydroseeded for grass, and that most likely cannot be done until May, and then it will need at least three months to grow before the public can be allowed to walk on it.

"That could be problematic," he said. "There are likely to be restricted areas in the park until the grass can take that pressure."

Dobler, who took over the management of the contract when the city's parks director retired last year, said as with any major public works project there are many other issues they are dealing with to keep things on track.

He said earlier this month the contractor, design team and the city met, and the contractors presented a schedule that showed the project may take a couple of months longer than the May completion date.

"They said it looks like we are going to have a hard time getting this all done within our contract days," Dobler said. "But we haven't conceded that yet."

Since that time, Dobler said the city has met with the contractors several times to see if they can make some changes to accelerate the project, and they have found a couple of things that could speed up the completion timeline.

"We have identified a few critical path tasks that can be changed," he said. "One of those is waterproofing that really is weather sensitive, so we are looking at another waterproofing product that can be put down right now, which would shorten their critical path."

He said they are also looking at pieces of the grand plaza where they could shave some time off the schedule. The pattern for pavers, that were originally planned in that area, can be changed to eliminate much of the labor intensive work.

He said, so far those efforts have shaved about a month off their schedule.

"So we are looking at some of those things that in their opinion are preventing them from completing the project within their contract days," Dobler said. "But we haven't extended the contract yet."

Dobler said it is hard to blame any one entity for causing the project to get off track at times.

"The city has also made numerous changes along the way," he said. "It's hard to quantify and say what delayed the project because in aggregate all these little pieces just add up and what didn't get accomplished by December when we got snow, will have to be put off until the weather improves."

If the recent stretch of nice weather holds, Dobler said that could dramatically accelerate the project as well.

"For example, they have a mid-March restart date which is based on historic weather records and that seems reasonable," he said. "But if we don't have much winter left, and the weather cooperates, they could get started much earlier."

Dobler said the city could possibly open portions of the park much earlier as well.

"There are a lot of things that have been completed in the park," he said, adding they are currently assessing what it would take to do that.

"There are a lot of nuances to that need to be looked at like irrigation and establishment of the grass," he said.

There are other factors like security and safety issues to contend with if they open the park while contractors are still working in other areas of the park.

"But it's not like nothing is finished," he said.

At this point, Dobler said he is confident the project could be completed by May and on budget.

"For the most part, it has gone according to plan," he said. "It's just unfortunate that some of these things draw a lot of negative attention.

"But I am convinced that two years from now - or maybe even six months after we open this project - people are going to love the project whether they questioned the funding for it or not," he added. "There is just so much out there for them to enjoy. I think most people will forget about all the controversy around it."

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