Contractor for the downtown Molalla contruction project, initially slated for an October 2016 completion date, has been given a short reprieve from accruing more liquidated damages

MOLALLA PIONEER FILE PHOTO - A six-block long construction project on downtown Molalla Avenue has been underway since March of 2016, and is still not completed as of March 2017Molalla Public Works Director Gerald Fisher provided an update on downtown Molalla Avenue construction at the March 8 city council meeting, saying contractor M.L. Houck Construction has reached substantial completion except for the final paving and striping of the road.

Additionally, Fisher said that since the work is "substantially complete" he has suspended the liquidated damages that were assessed and accruing on Salem-based M.L. Houck for not completing the project on time.

M.L. Houck began working on Molalla Avenue in April 2016 and the initial completion date was Nov. 30. Due to "some complications, that date was pushed back to Dec. 17 and then due to inclement weather the completion date again was moved back, this time to Jan. 6, Molalla Mayor Jimmy Thompson told the Pioneer.

"They can't (fully complete the project) without a break in the weather," Fisher said. "If, for some reason, they do not pave and several weather windows pass by I informed them the liquidated damages will start from the day I stopped them, which was Monday (March 6), and they will be assessed damages all the way through. If they get it paved in time and work with the weather I won't. This is the last little hammer we have to make sure this job gets done."

Fisher said construction crews have to wait at least one week before painting the striping on the roadway — in some cases adhesives stripes are used in lieu of paint.

"It's a weather dependent project so it could be longer than a week, but once the striping is in the project will be pretty much done," Fisher said. "They are working on a construction punch list. They have the entire list of items that need to be corrected now and they are working on that. They definitely want to get the project paved and get out of here."

Fisher said the city budgeted for whomever might be the contractor to delineate the parking spaces along Molalla Avenue, but doing so wasn't part of the final design — something Fisher realizes now was a disguised blessing.

"That wasn't in the design and I'm happy it wasn't because we need to measure the distance from the crosswalks and try to maximize parking on Molalla Avenue," he said. "We will put those down in the summer when the weather is better."

City Councilor Leota Childress said she noticed many of the new downtown light poles, which are owned by Portland General Electric (PGE) have space between the base of the pole and the sidewalk. Fisher said fixing those aesthetics are not part of the contract, but acknowledged that the city may want to hire a contractor to do so "just for the look and finish."

Fisher added that there are local contractors who do great work and it wouldn't cost the city too much in the end.

City Councilor Elizabeth Klein said that recently she heard of other cities that were reevaluating parking spots because there such a wide range of vehicle sizes now exist, and that these cities found that if they don't mark the parking spaces they end up with more cars than should be.

"Some agencies try to crush the parking stalls down as small as they can," Fisher said. "You have to think about the area you live in. This is not an area that has a lot of small cars. We have large trucks, a lot of farms and farm supply store right downtown. We're looking at standard minimum length parking stalls between 20-22 feet. I can park my three-quarter ton (truck) in a space that large."

Fisher added that he's heard complaints from several downtown business owners that people are doing what he referred to as "willy-nilly parking," where if a driver had moved back another five feet after parking there could have been another parking space available before the intersection.

"That's what we're trying to control," Fisher said. "That doesn't mean when someone comes in with a trailer they can't take up two parking spots when they are going into a business and coming right back out. We're trying to maximize the space for our parking. We don't really have parking problems unless you always want to park in front of the business you are going to. If you have to walk a block or two in downtown that's not a big deal. (People will) walk from one end of a parking lot to another at a shopping mall and not have an issue with it but if they can't park right in front of the store they want to go into they have an issue. We don't really have a parking problem here in Molalla."

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