EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

January 29, 2014

To pay or not to pay?

Councilors table discussion about $294K road paving bill

LAWRENCE — The City Council last night put aside a request to pay a $294,444 bill from a company that says former mayor William Lantigua promised to pay it though the work was done without a contract.

The company, Highway Rehabilitation Corp., originally had a $84,979 contract to pave a half dozen streets last summer. It continued working when the funding ran out after Lantigua and the city’s engineer and purchasing agent promised to pay for the added work, a representtive of the New York company told the council’s Budget Committee last night.

The city has refused to pay for the added work based on a state law requiring localities to rebid contracts that run over by 25 percent or more.

Highway Rehab’s bill eventually reached $379,423, a 346 percent overrun.

“We were assured we would be paid by the mayor at the time,” David Capelle, the company’s marketing and sales officer, told councilors last night. “We were assured there wouldn’t be a problem.”

The improved condition of the city’s streets was a cornerstone of Lantigua’s failed re-election campaign last year, when his administration spent a total of about $1.8 million paving streets and filling potholes.

The new mayor, Daniel Rivera, said Lantigua had his re-election in mind when he promised to pay Highway Rehab for the extra work without a contract. He said he is opposed to paying the $294,444 bill for the work, which could extinguish the company’s hope of collecting short of a lawsuit. The city can pay the bill only if both the mayor and the council agree to ask the state to allow it to waive the requirement that localities rebid projects that run over by 25 percent.

Acting Public Works Director John Isensee said Lantigua removed him from the chain of command on paving projects for most of the last four years and said he was not aware that the Highway Rehab was over budget and working without a contract. He suggested to the council committee that the administration’s decisions about what streets to pave and how to pay for the work was based on “manipulation, conniving and maneuvering.”

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