Waterfront park behind schedule

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 1, 2002

Construction on the $1.9 million waterfront park at Constant’s Wharf is months behind schedule because of problems the contractor had on the site, said a city official.

The Virginia Beach-based contractor, Virginia Marine Structures, began the project in July 2001, with a contracted completion date of April 4, said Eric Neilson, director of public works. Initial plans called for the marina and park being built in downtown Suffolk, on the banks of the Nansemond River, to open this past May or June.

Virginia Marine was contracted to replace the bulkheads; connect utilities – including sewer, electricity and water – to the waterfront; build fixed and floating piers for the marina; and construct a brick boardwalk.

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The project slowed when Virginia Marine began work on the bulkheads, Neilson said. Apparently, the firm had never worked with type of structural tieback system that engineers designed for the river’s bulkhead system.

&uot;Underwater debris also slowed them down,&uot; he said.

That area of the city’s waterfront has been in use since the 1700s, he said. Before work could begin, the contractor’s crews pulled from the river all sorts of junk that had accumulated over the years: a chain link fence, concrete blocks, and wooden poles, among other things.

Once Virginia Marine is finished, the city’s public works department will complete the project. Neilson said his department is responsible for moving fill material, constructing a public parking lot, and building a storm water drainage system and brick walkways throughout the park.

If the remainder of the project goes as scheduled, the city should be able to begin working in October, he said. Although the city’s part will take several months, he expects to begin opening the park in phases.

Virginia Marine is being fined $100 for every day after the company’s April 4th deadline, Neilson said.

He estimated the penalties could total as much as $18,000.

The delay is costing the city more than time. The city has had to hire an on-site inspector to continuously monitor and document the progress and quality of the work, Neilson said.

Although the inspector is charging $60 an hour, it’s a worthwhile investment by the city, he said.

&uot;This is not unlike most municipal projects. If we don’t have someone there, we risk having a substandard project,&uot; he said. &uot;One or two percent of the total cost of the project is a sacrifice I’m willing to make to ensure we end up with a quality project that will last for 50 or 100 years.

&uot;It’s disappointing not to have been able to open this summer. But when it does open, it will something we can all be proud of.&uot;