A project to build a new retaining wall on the west side of the Butte-Silver Bow Courthouse took far longer than originally projected and cost more, too.
But Public Works officials say taxpayers got a lot more than a new wall, including two new water mains, a new storm-water main, a section of new sewer line, new sidewalks and a repaved section of Montana Street with 15 new angled parking spaces.
All that work by county crews took longer and would have cost about $250,000 more if it had been bid out to private contractors, Public Works Director Dave Schultz told commissioners Wednesday night.
The original timetable for the wall by itself was six weeks, maybe more depending on how smoothly work went removing the existing stone wall and building a new one. The initial projected cost was $300,000.
The final tab was $391,000 and the project took 157 calendar days, according to figures given commissioners as part of a bigger review of Public Works projects. Work on the wall began in late May.
Some residents and commissioners were questioning the length and costs of the wall project by August. Council Chairman John Morgan asked then if all the costs, including county labor, were being tallied. He was told they were.
Schultz acknowledged the grumbling Wednesday, saying it was a very visible project Uptown and “there may have been a perception” it was taking too long and perhaps costing too much.
After Schultz explained the additional work, no commissioner asked questions during the meeting.
Replacing the wall has been a priority for several years since large swaths of the decades-old one were sloughing off. The wall keeps the Montana Street hillside from crumbling into the west side of the courthouse.
The old wall had to be dug out and removed, and to better align the new one with the courthouse and free up more space, the new wall was moved farther west.
That meant the water main under the street would have to be relocated, so a new one was put in. Another one between the courthouse and detention center was replaced, too.
Because of backups, a sewer line to the Jacobs House and an apartment building to the north was replaced. A new storm-water main also was put in, Schultz said.
The section of Montana Street next to the courthouse was blocked off during all that work, and since digging was necessary to do the water and sewer work, the street was repaved afterward.
Parallel parking on the east side of Montana was replaced with angled parking, which expanded spaces from eight to 15.
“It was all rolled into the wall project,” Schultz said. “Maybe we can parcel out the individual costs for each part, but right now all those things are part of the costs.”
All that work would have cost $645,000 if bid out to private contractors, according to an independent engineer’s estimate cited Wednesday. And 22 days were lost over the summer accommodating District Court, Schultz said.
The courtrooms, like the rest of the courthouse, are not air-conditioned so windows are opened for air on hot summer days, he said. Construction work made it almost impossible to hear in one courtroom, so it was stopped on days when the court was in session.
But private contractors would have been paid for waiting, Schultz said, whereas the county crews were dispatched to other county projects in town during those times.
The water mains were in addition to six others replaced around Butte. The others were on Marcia Street, C Street, West Quartz Street, South Arizona Street, Water Line Road and Basin Creek Road.