By Jane Smith

Delray Beach residents who live in the southern section of the barrier island will have to wait until at least mid-January for an extensive water project to be finished.

“The water mains are installed and reclaimed water lines are finishing up,” the Public Works staff responded via email through Jeff Goldman, acting assistant city manager. “Road work is well in progress.”

The $4 million-plus construction work began in January 2018 on five streets, from Lewis Cove south to Del Haven Drive. Water and sewer lines were replaced, stormwater drainage was improved, lines were added for irrigation with reclaimed water and new fire hydrants were installed. To do that work, the streets had to be dug up and replaced.

The work was supposed to be “substantially completed” by early October, with final completion by Dec. 6.

But the city’s contractor, Lanzo Construction, fell behind for a variety of reasons, including the discovery of a cracked pipe, the need to move water meters and the need to install a valve to bypass an existing water main. The water main’s location was different from the one shown in the preliminary engineering drawings, the Public Works staff explained. 

The contractor also might not be able to make the revised mid-January deadline.

“The issue is primarily focused on drainage improvements involving obtaining and installing a check valve, as well as lining a drainage pipe,” the Public Works email said.

Realtor Iris Cohen said that Rhodes Villa Avenue is in “100 percent better condition than in the summer.”

That’s when she traversed Rhodes Villa twice daily to feed her ex-husband’s Maine coon cats. It should have been an easy drive from Lang Realty’s East Atlantic Avenue offices, but it wasn’t.

On Rhodes Villa, she had to dodge ruts, water-filled trenches and heavy equipment. The main road, A1A between Casuarina Road to Del Haven, was often down to one lane to install reclaimed-water lines west of the sidewalks along A1A.

Now, Cohen said, the contractor appears to be making things right. “They had to replace sod and mailboxes. When they replaced the sod, then they came back to water it and make sure it’s growing,” she said. “They are trying.”

City staffers are reminding the contractor of the contract’s liquidated damages clause when negotiating completion benchmarks.

They will consult with the city attorney when the project is complete to determine whether any damages should be assessed, the email said.

Confusion in December boil water episode

Separately, a boil water order in early December created confusion for residents about whether they were in the area affected.

The notice was so poorly worded that some residents living north of Atlantic Avenue called or sent emails about it, Mayor Shelly Petrolia said at the Dec. 11 City Commission meeting.

City Manager Mark Lauzier agreed the notice may have caused confusion and said future notices would more accurately describe the locations affected.

On Dec. 6, Delray Beach issued a boil water notice for businesses and residents east of the Intracoastal Waterway, south of Atlantic Avenue to the city’s southern border with Highland Beach.

According to Goldman, a resident tied a potable irrigation meter with a regular potable water meter for the house. A private contractor had installed a reclaimed irrigation meter to the irrigation piping.

“Once discovered, city staff worked with the Florida Department of Health to implement precautionary actions to protect public health and safety. As part of that, the (affected) home was disinfected, flushed and tested, and a precautionary boil water notice was issued for the extended surrounding area,” he said in an email.

The boil water order was lifted on Dec. 8, 48 hours later.

Because the contractor was hired privately and working on private property, the city will not be able to assess a fine, according to the email.

In late December, the Utilities Department was calculating the cleanup costs for the cross connection.

The city notified residents and businesses in the affected area through its Code Red smartphone app, which sent an automated phone call and text message to those who had signed up for the alert.

City staffers also went door to door to hang a boil water notice that showed a map of the affected area.

“It was only for a few days,” said Kathy Baffer, former Seagate Neighborhood Association president. “We stopped drinking the water as soon as we heard.” 

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