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April 19, 2013

Downtown flood wall repairs to begin in early May

Will prevent insurance hikes for property owners

HAVERHILL — The flood wall that for decades has protected the downtown from potential disasters is about to get some federally required improvements.

The city is preparing to raise the concrete flood wall by two feet — a project aimed at preventing downtown flooding should the Merrimack River overflow its banks in a worst-case storm and also protecting property owners from big hikes in their insurance premiums.

Public Works Director Michael Stankovich said work is scheduled to begin early next month and be completed by the end of October.

He said Defelice Corp. of Dracut was hired to do the work because the company submitted the lowest responsible bid through a competitive bidding process required by the state.

But before work can begin, the city held a “pre-construction” meeting April 10 with the contractor and the engineering design team from AECOM, an international engineering firm with its worldwide headquarters in Los Angeles and offices around the world.

Stankovich said AECOM was selected last year to do the design work through a competitive bidding process as well.

He said the meeting was held to discuss how the project will proceed, as well as the schedule for the upcoming construction.

The project will cost about $5.1 million, which Stankovich said is less than a previous preliminary estimate of $6 million due to a “favorable” bidding climate.

The federal government has ordered the project, which will also allow 35 property owners along the waterway to continue paying for flood insurance at current rates.

The concrete wall, which is 30 feet high, has protected downtown Haverhill from being deluged by the Merrimack River since the 1936 flood, which left the business district under several feet of water.

Last month, the City Council paved the way for work on the flood wall to begin by approving easement agreements with four property owners to access their land for construction activities.

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