Work on bulkhead to begin anew

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 17, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

After being delayed for nearly a year, construction of the bulkhead at Constant’s Wharf is about to resume.

The city has hired the Portsmouth-based firm of W.F. McGann to complete construction of the 950-foot bulkhead along the Nansemond River, said Eric T. Nielsen, the city’s public works director. The city put the project on hold last summer after the bulkhead under construction by the original contractor, Virginia Marine Structures Inc., began to buckle.

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Last fall, an engineering consulting firm hired by the city attributed the bulkhead’s movement to the contractor’s decision not to install low-strength concrete walls behind the bulkhead, according to court documents That opinion prompted the city to terminate its contract with Virginia Marine last December.

Completing the bulkhead is key to finishing the waterfront park that will border the new $22 million Hilton Garden Inn and Conference Center being built at the intersection of North Main Street and East Constance Road. A hotel groundbreaking ceremony is slated for mid-June.

Work on the waterfront park, which also includes a boardwalk, 30 boat slips and a marina, will be finished by December, Nielsen said.

Before beginning work, McGann has to partially tear down the bulkhead constructed by Virginia Marine, said Nielsen. It also has to move the boat slips down the river and remove a pedestrian bridge that crosses the Nansemond River.

Although McGann has not yet issued cost estimates, city officials have said they don’t expect the city will spend any more than the $1.9 million original construction costs.

The balance should come from insurance and performance bonds posted by the companies.

Meanwhile, Virginia Marine Structures is suing the city for $1.2 million for construction and legal fees.

According to the lawsuit filed in Suffolk Circuit Court, the Virginia Marine said the bulkhead moved because of an &uot;inadequately designed tieback system&uot; and that the design was not within the company’s &uot;scope of responsibilities.&uot;

The suit also said Virginia Marine was delayed and unable to use the type of structural fill originally specified to go behind the bulkheads because of &uot;obstructions&uot; found underwater that were not identified in the city’s original bid package. The suit indicated that the city’s project engineer approved changes to the structural fill.

Nielson referred all questions on the lawsuit to City Attorney Ed Roettger, who could not be reached Friday.