Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
Tue, Jan. 21

Still bumbling along

PRESCOTT VALLEY -- Construction work on Navajo Drive was supposed to conclude by summer 2005. It didn't, and it could be a month or more before it finally does.

The seemingly endless delays -- whether because of weather, supplies or a lack of workers -- have stacked up to a town record. The once-inadequate rural road has evolved into a construction nightmare.

The good news is that all four lanes of traffic are open. The bad news is that the stoplights still aren't working.

"I've been telling people since February that they should be up," said Norm Davis, public works director for Prescott Valley. "It's been so woefully inept. Everyone knows it."

During the winter of 2004-05, a series of harsh storms halted progress for five months. When the snow melted, numerous supply and design problems further befuddled project milestones.

The town is no longer even keeping a detailed record of delays.

The project is actually two pieces, from Highway 69 to Yavapai Road and from Yavapai Road to Loos Drive. Asphalt Paving & Supply won the northern contract for $3.2 million and Haydon Building Corp. won the southern piece for $3.3 million.

Haydon had a 180-day completion schedule and Asphalt Paving had a 350-day schedule. Asphalt Paving finished the northern stretch about two weeks ago. Haydon is waiting for the stoplights.

Both contracts have language calling for delay penalties -- as much as $1,070 per day -- but the town hasn't taken any action.

"You have to show they're negligent in their abilities," Davis said. "These are qualified contractors, but they must rely upon the construction market. Penalizing them would not be in the best interest of the town."

The town appears to be waiting it out and hoping the project concludes before 2007. Outside of penalizing the contractors, it has no apparent options.

David Martin, president of the Arizona chapter of Associated General Contractors said Prescott Valley is not alone in suffering extraordinary delays.

He said he first noticed a drop in material availability when steel supplies dried up. Current material shortages include concrete, which has tripled in price, and PVC pipe.

The result is a ripple effect resulting from the lack of one component.

For example, most road projects require workers to lay down drainage pipe before pouring concrete. But if the pipe hasn't arrived, the concrete is useless and the contractor faces a delay.

"It's all interrelated," Martin said. "It's influencing what we call the critical path -- or the schedule in layman's terms."

Another problem is the lack of labor. The construction industry in Arizona grew 21 percent in 2004, almost twice as much as it did nationwide.

The ocean of immigrants apparently is not filling the need. Associated General Contractors reports a need for 8,000 more workers this year alone.

"Regardless of what the base is, we still have a shortage," Martin said. "Labor just doesn't grow on trees."

The construction industry currently accounts for one of 11 jobs in Arizona. That number is growing twice as fast as the state's population.

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