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Construction work on 'radio station road' will not be complete by deadline; Duininck Inc. facing penalties

WILLMAR -- More than a mile of a summer road project north of Willmar is not expected to be completed by the Nov. 15 deadline.

The best residents can hope for on the north end of County Road 41 (also known as the radio station road) is a gravel base to drive on this winter, instead of a newly regraded and tarred two-lane road that had been promised.

Public Works Director Gary Danielson told the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday that the contractor, Duininck Inc. of Prinsburg, can't meet the deadline.

Duininck Inc. could face $1,750 a day in penalties.

Obviously not pleased with the situation, Danielson said the economy played a big role in how the county and Duininck Inc. made decisions on the project.

In order to get the best bid on the $3 million project, Danielson said the county set a late deadline.

Faced with fewer projects because of the recession, he said Duininck opted to have crews work 40-hour weeks to avoid paying overtime and to avoid laying off employees.

As a result, said Danielson, there were many nice, dry days when work was not being done on the road.

Now, with an unusually wet fall, Duininck crews are scrambling to make the last 1¼ mile of the road passable. Although the rest of the project is done, not having all of County Road 41 completed truncates an important artery into Willmar that carries several thousand vehicles every day, said Danielson.

He said he understands the desire to trim expenses by cutting overtime -- it's the same thing the county has done. But he said trying to extend the construction season increases chances that "you're going to get caught if the weather changes."

He also said the county "ends up by looking less than wise" by extending the contract, but that it was done with the intention of saving the county money.

Commissioner Dean Shuck had brought the issue to the board.

He'd been hearing from residents who have been getting stuck in the mud on the road this fall, and Shuck fielded concerns from a farmer who lives on County Road 41 about the difficulty in getting to crops without the road completed.

Residents "have been patient" he said, but were concerned with the approaching winter season.

Danielson said there may be some question as to when penalties may be applied to Duininck Inc. because of Minnesota Department of Transportation rules. He said it's possible liquidated damages may not be triggered until the 2010 spring construction season officially starts April 15.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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