The state is withholding tens of thousands of dollars in pay to an Anchorage contractor who is nearly nine months behind schedule in building a pedestrian bridge across the Mendenhall River.
The $1.5 million project to link Dimond Park with trails on the west side of the river was scheduled for completion last August. However, contractor Swalling Construction still is not done, according to Soc Kreuzenstein of the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, which hired the company.
The state plans to withhold at least $150,000 to penalize the contractor and even more if the bridge is not completed by midnight tonight, said Kreuzenstein, adding he was certain Swalling Construction planned to file a lawsuit to claim the docked payments.
Company owner Mike Swalling did not rule out a suit but said he hoped to solve the conflict outside court.
"We're trying to get all these issues resolved with the state, and they have administrative procedures to do that," Swalling said in a telephone interview from Anchorage. "We think the state should be responsible for some of this and that's what we're trying to resolve."
Swalling explained the state delayed the bid award by two months, triggering other delays.
"It's too complex to answer in a phone call because there are a lot of issues to relate to it," Swalling said. "I'm not going to say it to (the Empire) before I discuss it with the state. The issues we have are with them."
Kreuzenstein said the state opened bids in December 1999 and awarded a contract one month later. He said the state accommodated Swalling for the one-month delay by extending the original July deadline to late August. Kreuzenstein said he could not explain why the project still is not done because the company had not given the state details.
"We don't know exactly what his issues are," Kreuzenstein said. "It just never came together the way it was supposed to."
The state docked the company $1,000 a day after it missed the August deadline but stopped fining Swalling in January after the bridge became useable to the public and winter weather precluded crews from immediately finishing the project. However, the state still is awaiting final touches, including landscaping and completion of an observation deck off the bridge. If the work is not done by today, the daily fines will resume Wednesday "in an effort to get him to complete the project," Kreuzenstein said.
Swalling said he hoped to finish the work this week.
The metal-and-concrete structure, financed with mostly federal funds, spans the Mendenhall River at the lower end of Kaxdigoowu Heen Dei, or Clear Water Creek Trail, by the Brotherhood Bridge. The project is part of a plan to connect trail systems on the west side of the river to Dimond Park, the site of a proposed new high school and Riverbend Elementary School.
"This provides educational opportunities for the high school as well as Riverbend School to access the other side of the river without having to go on the road," said Juneau Parks and Recreation Director Kim Kiefer, who is planning a grand opening ceremony in June.
Kaxdigoowu Heen Dei, a paved, two-mile trail leading to River Road, is one of three trails on the west side of the river. The area, known as the west Mendenhall Valley Greenbelt, also includes a horse trail on the upper side and a hiking path along part of the river's edge.
In a separate project, the city plans to build a fourth sports field at Dimond Park this year, Kiefer said. The lighted, multi-use field will accommodate soccer, baseball and softball games. Juneau voters approved the project in 1998 as part of a proposition to extend a temporary 1 percent sales tax.
Kathy Dye may be reached at email@example.com.
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