EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

January 28, 2014

Rivera: No contract, no payment

Mayor says Lawrence won't pay $294,444 paving overrun ordered by Lantigua

LAWRENCE — At campaign rallies, in interviews and radio ads and especially on his Facebook page, former Mayor William Lantigua regularly pointed to the streets he paved and the potholes he filled as reason number one for his re-election.

Dozens of streets in every neighborhood got fresh coats of asphalt during Lantigua’s four years in office, but the work intensified significantly last July and August as September’s preliminary election approached, when he would face five challengers.

In the 15 days between July 22 and Aug. 6, the bills from just one of the companies hired for the paving jobs reached almost $400,000, records show.

The bills from Highway Rehabilitation Corp. of New York might have continued, but the city’s purchasing agent slammed the brakes on the work when the invoices began arriving on Aug. 6, noting that company’s contract with the city capped the work at $84,979.

“This email shall serve as notice that you are to cease any and all work in Lawrence immediately,” Purchasing Agent Rita Brousseau told the David Capelle, Highway Rehab’s marketing officer, in an email that morning. “No authorization was given to your company to perform any additional work, therefore, the city will not pay you for such.”

The $294,444 overrun occurred at Lantigua’s direction, according to Andrew Wall, the city engineer who monitored the work, and Acting Public Works Director John Isensee, who said he was “pushed aside” as Lantigua personally directed the paving projects, even as the overruns piled up street by street.

Isensee said neither Lantigua or Wall made him aware that the work was busting the budget and that it had been authorized without the new round of bidding state law requires whenever a public project exceeds its initial contract price by 25 percent.

“Clearly, the mayor was the driving force in deciding which streets and how many got done, which is generally not the practice in this department,” Isensee said yesterday about the extra paving work Lantigua ordered in the months leading up to the Sept. 17 preliminary election. “Typically, we (at DPW) decide what needs to be worked on and what methods should be used. For the most part, that wasn’t followed.”

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