Mandeville seeks speed-up on highway widening

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News,Business

MANDEVILLE, La. (AP) — The Mandeville City Council has approved a resolution asking the state to amend its contract with the company that is widening of U.S. Highway 190 to speed up the project.

Nola.comThe Times-Picayune reported (http://bit.ly/1ihLOfO) the move is designed to help businesses that say their trade has suffered because the project is taking so long to complete.

The council's action drew criticism from a restaurant owner who bristled at the suggestion the contractor on the $11.3 million project could be given more money to complete the project sooner.

Carmelo Chirico, owner of Carmelo Ristorante and Pizzeria on U.S. Highway 190, said government should not consider paying more to the company that he says is responsible for the slow-moving project. Business at the restaurant is off about 28 percent since the project started last April, he said.

"If you come to my restaurant and I make you a bad pizza, you don't come back," he said. "You don't give me more money to buy a pizza oven."

Chirico said the council and state should have acted sooner to prompt the construction company — Command Construction — to speed up the work, which was originally scheduled to be finished this month but now is expected to be completed in November.

Saying that what's being done now is too little, too late, Chirico said he likely will have to close his business within the next two weeks. "I'm done," he said. "I'm out of business."

Command was hired under a state contract to make the road improvements. Neither the construction company nor the highway department was represented at the council meeting.

City officials said they don't have the power or funds to amend the contract and can only ask the state to do so.

Councilman Ernest Burguieres said the intention is not to reward the construction company, but to get the work done sooner.

The council's resolution says businesses along the U.S. Highway 190 corridor have "suffered severe disruption as a result of the road construction work such that many are on the verge of closing up and going out of business."

The resolution authorizes Mayor Donald Villere to work with the state to "to fund additional (work) shifts and other matters" that would bright the project to a quick conclusion.

Representative from the state Department of Transportation and Development have said the state has no authority to make the construction company work around the clock to complete the job because such a requirement is not part of the contract.

The project involves widening from two to four lanes about 1.2-miles of U.S. Highway 190 from Lonesome Road to Asbury Drive. A two-lane bridge over Bayou Chinchuba is being replaced with two new spans, each with two lanes. New drainage lines also are being installed.

The city plans a public concert in June to draw people back to the commercial district.

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Information from: The Times-Picayune, http://www.nola.com

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