By KATIE HOOS
The Jefferson Avenue Bridge construction project, which began in September 2012, in an effort to increase the space between the bridge and the Mamaroneck River and help alleviate flooding issues in the area, has been plagued by numerous setbacks, unmet completion deadlines and community criticism.
Aiming to finally complete the bridge construction in the coming months, the Village of Mamaroneck Board of Trustees authorized a $125,770.50 payment to the Arben Group—the contractor responsible for the project—during a March 17 work session.
According to Village Manager Richard Slingerland, Seneca Insurance—the issuer of the performance bond that protects the village in case of bankruptcy or financial default by Arben—requested the village make a payment to Arben.
“Since we are at the final stages of the contract for the Jefferson Avenue Bridge, Seneca Insurance has activated their rights and privileges as the bonding agency to make sure that the project is done and all payments due and liens held are satisfied,” Slingerland said. “The original request for payment from Arben came in late February and it took some time to review and approve it.”
In a Feb. 19 letter to the village, Seneca stated the village is not to pay Arben any further without Seneca’s consent because Arben is in “default” under the project’s performance bond.
When asked how Arben was in default of the performance bond, Slingerland declined to comment.
Seneca’s attorney, Adam Sch-wartz could not be reached for comment.
The Jefferson Avenue Bridge project has been fraught with problems.
Under the terms of the contract, construction was to last no longer than six months and, if an extension was needed, the contractor was required to obtain written authorization from the village manager.
This authorization never occurred, according to Slingerland, and the overextension of the contract is being reviewed by village attorneys.
Arben also entered into a verbal agreement with a subcontractor to do sheet piling work—the verbal agreement ultimately fell through—despite the contract between Arben and the village stating Arben cannot execute an agreement with any subcontractor without written approval from the village.
The written agreement to subcontract was never granted by the village.
In March 2013, the bridge construction hit a major roadblock that halted construction and added to the initial contracted cost of $3.1 million—which was to be split equally between the Village of Mamaroneck and the Town of Rye—when a 21-inch sewer line broke causing 3 million gallons of raw sewage to leak into the Mamaroneck River. The break resulted in the village being fined $17,000 by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, a fee Arben will be ordered to pay.
A $1 million change work order for replacing the sewer line was issued.
The initial cost for the project was split between the village and the Town of Rye because the bridge connects the village to the Rye Neck section, which exists simultaneously in the Village of Mamaroneck and the Town of Rye.
On Feb. 20, one day after Seneca advised the village Arben was in default on the performance bond, the contractor submitted a request for payment to the village for the work the contractor had already completed on the bridge.
After Seneca reviewed the request, their attorney sent a letter to the village allowing the payment of $125,777.50.
The payment is in-line with the original contract between the village and Arben, bringing the total amount the village has paid the contractor to more than $3 million. According to Slingerland, there are still outstanding payments the village must pay Arben to complete the contract, but he could not provide a specific amount to the Review as of press time.
There is also an outstanding $158,735 retainage fee, which is the money withheld from Arben until the project has reached completion to the satisfaction of the village.
The vote to approve the issuance of the payment took place during the Board of Trustees March 17 work session and not a regular meeting because of time constraints, according to Slingerland.
“Arben had basically been waiting for a month for payment and the earliest we could issue it was at the work session,” he said.
The authorization of payment passed in a 3 to 2 vote in which Republican Mayor Norman Rosenblum, Democratic Trustee Leon Potok, and Republican Trustee Louis Santoro voted to approve the payment, while Democrats Ilissa Miller and Andreas Bermudez Hallstrom voted against it.
When asked why he voted against authorizing the payment during the work session, Bermudez Hallstrom said he thought the vote should take place during regular session, and not a work session.
The next regular Board of Trustees meeting was held Monday, March 24.
The construction is expected to reach completion this spring, according to Slingerland. “We still have to install the curbs, do the sidewalks and repave the street and the surrounding approaches,” Slin-gerland said, noting the April 30 completion date set by the contractor will probably not be met.
“Honestly, May 31 is more likely,” he said.
With the deadline of an ongoing 18-month long construction project rapidly approaching, some village residents are concerned that this will be just another unmet deadline.
Stuart Tiekert, a village resident who has closely followed the progress of the Jefferson Avenue Bridge construction, said considering the amount of work that still has to be done, the April and May deadlines are “unrealistic.”
“Half a million dollars worth of work still needs to be done,” Tiekert said, noting he is concerned from where the village is going to get the money to finish the job.
“I’m just unclear where they’re going to pay that money out of,” he said.
Deadlines and dollars aren’t the only issues with which Tiekert is concerned. He said the village has conducted its business on the project with a lack of transparency.
“It’s unfortunate that no one on the Board of Trustees has stepped up to take a leadership role in this and inform the residents of what’s going on,” he said.
The project, with its added expenses, has cost the village around $4 million, according to Slingerland, who said the village is responsible for repairing damages incurred during the construction to the privately owned properties—the Peña home located at 200 Jefferson Ave. and Picone’s Sausage, located at 180 Jefferson Ave.—on either side of the bridge.
When asked what the final total cost of the work will be, Slingerland said he could not provide an exact number.