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Salem selectmen criticize delay in bridge work completion

SALEM — The reconstruction of the Bluff Street Bridge is in its final stages but has still taken a little longer than originally scheduled.

Town Manager Keith Hickey said the bridge will be open as the work is finished up, with the possible exception of one or two days.

Everett McBride, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said the work was supposed to be completed by the contractor, the Thibeault Corporation, at the beginning of September.

“Is there a penalty? They were supposed to be done by the start of school,” said McBride. “Obviously, they are two weeks late.”

Robert Puff, the town’s engineering director, said there is a liquidated damages clause in the contract with the contractor but that it would be hard to pursue.

“The contractor can counter with claims about the amount of water that we’ve had,” said Puff. “So rather than pursue that, I’ve pushed them to get the bridge open to traffic as soon as it was reasonably possible.”

The contractor also agreed to pay for any police details as the work continues, Puff said.

“That’s essentially an equivalent penalty,” said Puff. “To be clear, there are a lot of misconceptions about liquidated damages. It’s not as easy as, ‘You’re late, give us the money.’ It’s not that clean.”

Puff added that the contractor only went over schedule by six or seven days and that it could be argued that the weather played a part in the delays.

The Bluff Street Bridge replacement consisted of the full replacement of the metal pipe arch structure and a full box reconstruction of the adjacent roadway. The project also included roadway re-alignment, new pavement, drainage improvements and guardrail replacement.

The project began at the Zion Hill Road intersection and extended west about 1,000 feet on Bluff Street.

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