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Ocean City

Caroline Street restrooms and stage project flushed with delays

(Dec. 20, 2013) If the Caroline Street restroom project is not “substantially complete” by this evening, the town has threatened to call the construction bond on the project’s contractor.

“It’s generally considered to be a measure of last resort,” said City Engineer Terry McGean. “I’m optimistic that it’s not going to come to that, but we’ll see.”

McGean and City Manager David Recor were queried on the project during Recor’s run-down of the city’s ongoing capital construction at Monday’s council meeting.

Construction work on the facility was awarded to local contractor Black Diamond Builders in November of 2012, with the expectation that it would be finished before the 2013 summer season. However, “weather delays and contractor performance issues,” Recor said, have dragged the project out and created a quagmire for all those involved.

Black Diamond has not returned calls regarding the project’s status as of press time.

As Recor noted, Black Diamond has been paying damages of $1,000 per day to the city since early August. The next step, if the city believes that the work cannot be completed regardless of the financial incentive, is to give up the bond on the work.

The city required Black Diamond to be bonded for the entire contract price of the work, $938,750. If the town turns in the bond to the bonding company, Black Diamond will forfeit its bond money and the bonding agent will use the funds to complete the project.

“The performance bond guarantees that the project will be completed,” McGean said. “The bonding agent would be responsible for the completion [of the work] in that scenario.”

“Basically, we’ve told them that if the project is not substantially completed by Friday, we’ll turn over the bond.”

The facility, located on the Boardwalk between Caroline and North Division Streets, was conceived roughly a year ago as a replacement for the decades-old concrete block bathhouse that previous occupied the space, a structure often described by city staff as “bunker-like” due to its inset construction.

The city also desired to create some kind of public performing arts venue at the location. After much discussion by City Council, McGean and architect David Quillen were able to design a structure which features a central stage area as well as expanded restroom facilities.

The central concrete platform will allow beach-facing shows and concerts, but will be flanked by two separate wings with expanded men’s and women’s bathrooms, and will feature low-cost, low-energy ventilation systems for heating and cooling.

However, it became apparent over the summer that the city may have allowed Black Diamond to bite off more than it could chew. The complex framing and molding of the concrete, McGean said, was turning out to be extremely arduous.

An additional contractor was called on to help with the concrete work, but the project continued to be waylaid.a

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