Officials are shifting the blame for delays and cost overruns to contractors who they say have provided “misleading and false” statements during the completion of the city’s Jackson Road project.

On Jan. 19, the City Council approved a change order that adds an additional $32,000 for drainage and paving to the Jackson Road project. Engineering firm, Pharr-based R. Gutierrez Corporation formally requested the amount in open letters to city engineers, along with an additional 15 days for the project’s completion, which the City Council denied.

As of the last city meeting on Jan. 19, the firm had 29 days left to complete the project as per the original bid.

The city first awarded its bid for the $2.7 million Jackson Road project to Mission-based Valley Paving on Jan. 20, 2009, for drainage and road improvements for the section beginning from Highway 107 to just north of Chapin Road. The original cost of the Jackson Road project has now been increased by $92,000 after three change orders.

City Engineer Isael Posadas said the city is not at fault for the latest rise in cost for the Jackson Road project.

The city is protected from having to pay the additional amount based on two factors. It was an engineering oversight, not noticing discrepancies in the quantities of materials in the plan; and the fact that work was performed by the contractor without an inquiry as to whether or not the city could afford to pay, or was even willing to pay, Posadas said.

“There are provisions in the contract that say if you do the work without telling us, and it’s going to cost us more, then the city reserves the right not to pay for it,” Posadas said.

The city says engineering firm, Gutierrez Corp. is asking the city to cover the costs for additional costs of the project due to error in the plans and bid proposal ($24,550) as well as additional construction of a headwall ($7,480) to reduce the chance for vehicles running off the bank and into the ditch.

Gutierrez Corp. implored the city not to enforce Special Provision 20 on the bid that waives compensation due to the contractor’s work without an approved change order. In letters addressed to city officials, the firm tells the city that Valley Paving did work “in good faith” to complete the project.

“We simply ask that you not enforce the provision in this case. The contractor (Valley Paving) performed the needed concrete riprap work in good faith and to avoid delaying the project,” said Luis Nava, senior project manager on behalf of the Gutierrez Corporation via a letter to Posadas dated Oct. 27, 2009.

“You also state that is the city’s position that responsibility for the error lies with others. We never said it wasn’t our error. We simply tried to explain how it happened,” Nava said.

Paying for the change order (No. 3) after the work is done would be no different than six sewer manholes that were completed for the Jackson Road project without an approved change order at the price of $7,200 each, higher than market cost, according to Nava; a statement the city calls false and misleading, according to Posadas.

A change order for the manholes was formally approved by the City Council on Aug. 5, 2009, a fact the Edinburg Review confirmed.

City officials say the project will be completed as scheduled.

“I don’t think anything really is going to be affected. The engineer was recommending an additional 15 days, but based on the progress we have we believe have under contract, it will be done on time,” Posadas said. “We’re not really worried on the time issue.”