The owner of a Plattsburgh-based contracting firm says the state Department of Transportation - not his company - is in charge of the Sara-Placid Highway repaving project, which has been causing headaches for motorists since mid June.
Bob Brunell of N.J. Brunell and Sons told the Enterprise on Monday that his company works under the direction of DOT, which has a project foreman at the site of the construction on state Route 86 between Saranac Lake and Lake Placid.
Brunell said under the contract, the state is renting equipment and manpower from his company, although DOT spokeswoman Carol Breen said "the term 'renting' is a mischaracterization of the contract, under which N.J. Brunell and Son will provide materials, equipment and specific laborers to help complete the work."
Some motorists and business owners have complained about the project's timing - July is one of the busiest months of the year for the area's tourism-based economy - and that the 8-mile trip between the two communities has taken more than an hour on some days. One of the chief complaints commuters have expressed has been the inconsistency of when the work is being performed. Signs along the highway indicate that motorists should expect delays between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., although work crews have often packed up by mid-afternoon.
Brunell said that's because he doesn't have allowance for overtime pay. He said his crews get paid at a regular rate when they work more than eight hours.
Breen said, however, that "the contractor did not request overtime for this project.
"This portion of the project was estimated by both DOT and the contractor to take 80 hours, working eight hours per day for 10 business days," she said.
Brunell said his company was scheduled to start work on May 21 but was pushed back because another contractor, Peckham Materials, hadn't begun the first phase of the project, which was to mill up the road's old asphalt surface.
When it comes to the traffic delays, Brunell said the Sara-Placid Highway is a difficult stretch.
"About 17 years ago, I paved that stretch between Saranac Lake and Lake Placid, and I swore I'd never pave it again," he said. "There's no place for the traffic to go.
"My guys are doing an exceptional job under the conditions," Brunell added.
N.J. Brunell and Sons recently paved the stretch of Route 86 between Saranac Lake and Donnelly's Corners. Brunell said that project was completely under his company's control and went much faster and smoother.
"It's a night-and-day difference in terms of what was out at the hospital," he said.
Breen said the good news is that DOT expects the work to be complete by the end of the day Friday.