, Newburyport, MA

August 29, 2013

Supply problem stalls parking lot renovations

Work won't be finished until mid-September

By Dave Rogers
Staff Writer

---- — NEWBURYPORT — Had everything gone as planned, the repairs to the vital Green Street parking lot would be finished tomorrow. But a supply issue involving granite curbing has pushed back the city’s estimated completion date well into September, leaving spaces at a premium.

For several weeks, as improvements have been made to the central downtown lot, only a portion of the area has been available for parking.

City Planner Andrew Port yesterday said the city learned only this week that due to the shutdown of a plant supplying granite, the contractor, Target Construction, was 200 linear feet short of the full amount. Much of the granite curbing used for planting islands that dot the 199-space lot has been installed. Port said the problem at the plant had been remedied and the remaining granite would be delivered to the job site today and installed as quickly as possible. The lot should be ready in time for Saturday’s Riverfront Music Festival scheduled between noon and 6 p.m. in Waterfront Park.

Once the curbing is installed, the lot will remain open to the public until final paving, estimated to take place on Sept. 10, weather permitting. On that date, the lot will be shut down until paving is complete. Final line striping will take place soon after.

The refurbishing of the lot began in July, but work was halted during Yankee Homecoming to allow as many motorists to park in the downtown area as possible.

The delay has prompted a steady stream of calls to Mayor Donna Holaday’s office and the city clerk’s office, which manages the city’s parking program. Port said many of the calls are coming from business owners who have already felt the pinch of less parking during what they have called some of the most important weeks of their business year.

“It’s just unfortunate,” Port said.

Perhaps even more unfortunate is the apparent communication breakdown between the contractor and the city. Port said Target Construction did not inform the city of its supply issues. Instead, Port, who had been away on vacation, noticed the curbing installation had not been completed and called the company to express his concern.

Port, who said he checked on the project’s progress daily, acknowledged the lines of communication could have been better.

Per its contract with Target Construction, the city has the ability to fine or penalize the company as much as $500 each day it is late finishing the project. So far, according to Port, the city has yet to decide whether it would take advantage of that clause.

“That’s something we’re looking into,” Port said.

Yesterday, the city and the Greater Newburyport Chamber of Commerce spent time alerting business owners and others of the delay. The Chamber posted news of the delay on its Facebook page. And a city parking enforcement agent was seen delivering fliers containing the same message to area businesses.

Chamber President Ann Ormond also called the delay unfortunate, but as of mid-afternoon yesterday had yet to receive a complaint from business owners. That’s not to say people weren’t frustrated, she added, but pointed out that business owners were more upset when the entire lot was closed for a day in mid-August just before the “Cruisin the 50s” classic car show and doo-wop concert in downtown Newburyport.

Port said his office would continue to keep business owners and residents informed in the weeks ahead.