By: Tom Duggan – 10-27-16|7:21pm
Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera has ordered a halt of all construction on the Merrimack St. project, sending workers and police details home on Wednesday. Rivera also called for a work stoppage by Columbia Gas Company throughout the city.
Rivera told The Valley Patriot in an exclusive interview Thursday, that he called for the work to stoppage on Merrimack St. after the contractor refused to communicate with the city or work with the abutters of the construction project.
“This contractor wants to fix city streets and conduct business without any consideration of the people who live and work there,” Rivera said.
“So, basically the contractor on the Merrimack St. project was doing whatever they wanted to do without talking to us. They were pushing out some of the staff on our team and not communicating with us about how they were doing things. The abutters were very upset at what they were doing.”
“For example, last Friday I found out on my own that they made a decision, without telling anyone, that they were shutting down South Union and Merrimack Streets for a half-day on Monday. That’s unacceptable. That’s an intersection right by the bridge that is being shut down and none of the businesses or residents, much less the city was told about. They were going to tell us the night before. I think we owe it to the people this project is inconveniencing to have open lines of communication and letting the people in on what’s being done over there.”
Rivera says that when he called the contractor to get them to work with the city and communicate what they were going to do before they do it, “They hung up on me,” Rivera said in frustration, admitting he was harsh with them on the phone.
“I asked them, do you know how much money we are paying you on this project? The next thing I know they hung up.”
Rivera says he would rather see the roads blocked and work done at night or on weekends when it will have the least impact on businesses and traffic. “They can’t communicate with us or take our concerns seriously, so, I did the only thing I thought would get their attention and I shut it down.”
The project is set to restart next week after proper notice is given to abutters and those affected by the closures of South Union and Merrimack Streets near the Duck Bridge.
COLUMBIA GAS IN HOT… PAVING?
Another move made by the Lawrence mayor this week was to order Columbia Gas to stop working on city streets for 30 days.
“They were digging up newly paved streets, we’ve been over this with them. They get the permits to do the work long before a street is to be paved, but they wait till after the street is paved, and then rip up the streets to do their work. I’ve told them they have to do the work on newly paved streets before they are paved.”
“I have a new rule. If the hot top is black you don’t rip it up unless it’s an emergency, and if it’s an emergency we need to be notified right away. The hot top only stays black for about 2 years. When you rip up a new street you cause numerous long term problems with potholes, plowing, the time and aggravation of the DPW, etc. You also have to re-pave the street sooner than you would if it wasn’t ripped up. I have been fighting this stuff every day of my life. At it’s core, government is incompetent. I’m trying to change that every day in Lawrence. There’s no reason they can’t do their work before a street is paved.”
Rivera says that he does not blame the subcontractors actually performing the work, but the president of Columbia Gas who is not communicating the wishes of the city to the subcontractors.
“They think they can just do whatever they want, and I’m kind of tired of it. People already think the city doesn’t know what it’s doing, and here we pay millions of dollars for newly paved streets, and then pay millions more to re-pave it and repair potholes because it was ripped up with no consideration for the city.”