BILOXI -- The contractor working on infrastructure improvements in East Biloxi plans a Christmas gift for businesses and residents in parts of East Biloxi, but engineering issues and four months of non-payment by the city threaten the project.
"Asphalt will be down by Christmas," said Tony Morrow with Oscar Renda Contracting of Bayview Avenue from Caillavet Street to about Main Street. Paving will give drivers a smooth ride to Boomtown and IP Casino after months of roads being torn up or closed and comes during one of the casinos' busiest weeks of the year.
He said ORC recently worked through an issue with Biloxi engineering over the water connection for Boomtown Casino.
Other streets in that area will have to wait to be paved because the reinforced concrete storm drains already buried below many streets have to be dug up and replaced. Plans by MWH Global called for pipes to handle a 25-year flood rather than a 100-year flood, Morrow said.
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Oak Street also will be paved by Christmas and
paving will continue down Division Street, he said.
While making these promises, Morrow said Oscar Renda Contracting, which is doing the infrastructure work on the huge North Contract that encompasses all of East Biloxi north of the railroad tracks, hasn't been paid since July and is owed $5.3 million.
The company has 135 people on the job, all but 7 of whom are local, and is meeting payroll and buying materials.
"ORC can no longer continue to finance this project," he said.
A special meeting is called for 3 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall to address the many issues, including the impending loss of project supervisor HNTB, whose contract is about to expire.
Council President Felix Gines has scheduled a second meeting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday with residents of Ward 2 who are complaining about the dirt roads and their effect on their health, their homes and cars.
"People are willing to be patient if they see some progress on the roads," Gines said.
Records show Biloxi has paid HNTB more than $19 million to coordinate the project and Gines said, "$20 million and 7 years -- I think we should be in a lot better shape than we are now."
The cost and problems keep mounting and the project is behind schedule, delaying FEMA payments to the city. Morrow said engineering errors are the main reason.
Other problems include:
-- Engineer specifications for pipe are considerably below the 10 to 15 percent contingency built into a project, said Mayor Andrew "FoFo" Gilich, requiring constant change orders and more funding.
-- When Biloxi broke up the construction area into small bids to let local engineers compete, "You didn't do yourself any favors," said Morrow. The new water, sewer and storm drain lines are like a spider web and he said it's a challenge to make the designs of two different engineers come together where the plans actually meet on these streets.
-- The 6th Street pump station is on the north side of the railroad tracks but is part of the South Contract that is out for bid a second time. Biloxi and HNTB said it would pay Oscar Renda for bypass pumping, which is now more than $60,000, but hasn't paid anything yet.
The city rebid the South Contract for work south of the railroad tracks to U.S. 90 and those bids are scheduled to be opened Nov. 18.
"We have no choice but to do it," Gines said of tearing up the area south of the tracks.
From the surface to 40 feet under the ground the infrastructure is awful, Morrow said. With clay pipe, rotting water lines and water cutoffs that are in some cases hundreds of feet apart -- "It's junk."