St. Cloud’s City Council is looking for ways to incentivize Cathcart Construction, the company involved in the city’s downtown construction project, to complete the project as quickly as possible in order to help its downtown business community.

During the city’s Thursday night meeting Trevor Estill, owner of The Garage Bar and Thee Dog House on Pennsylvania Avenue, told Council members the delays are hurting his businesses.

”It has become absolutely dire,” Estill said. “I’ve been one of the most ardent supporters of this project. The outcome will be very beneficial to downtown and the businesses. But we are dying a slow, painful death because of all the construction delays.”

City Manager Veronica Miller said Cathcart Construction informed the city this week that the project again delayed. Cathcart was expecting the downtown project to be most complete by Dec. 2, in time for the Dec. 3 Christmas parade, but because of the impacts of the recent hurricane, along with a number of unforeseen underground conflicts, the construction company has extended the expected completion date.

“We told them that is not acceptable and asked them to come back to us with options,” Miller said.

One of the options discussed was whether it would be more beneficial to downtown businesses to pause construction until after the holidays, but after meeting with the Downtown Business Group on Thursday, the city manager said the business owners prefer that the construction continue as opposed to another delay.

According to the city, Cathcart Construction’s current timeline calls for Pennsylvania Avenue from 9th to 10th to be open by Dec. 9. Pennsylvania Avenue between 10th and 12th streets is scheduled to be open on Dec. 16, and the section from 12th to 13th to be partially open by that date. 10th Street would not be open until February 8.
Estill said business owners have lost faith in Cathcart Construction. “We are apprehensive with any promises from Cathcart at this point,” he said.

Council members said the business owners they’ve talked to just want the project completed as soon as possible.

“The ultimate solution is to get this done as quickly as possible,” Council Member Kolby Urban said. “The businesses want to see it carry on and get it done as soon as possible.”
He asked what recourse the city has available to hold Cathcart accountable to those dates.

“They have told me they’ve never had a job where they found so many abandoned pipes underground,” Miller said. “There were two underground storage tanks, utility conflicts, and then two hurricanes.”

City Attorney Dan Mantzaris said that at this point in the project, “they’ve been on the project long enough that most of these undiscovered conflicts have been revealed. We can go back to them, have them tighten up the substantial completion dates and add some more teeth to it with a damages provision if they don’t meet the substantial completion dates.”

Deputy Mayor Linette Matheny said has heard the same frustrations from business owners and wants to find a way to get the project completed.

“Can we incentivize them? Have them work 7 days a week. Have them work two shifts. Thanksgiving is next week. Are they taking the whole week off or can they just take Thursday off and work the rest of the week? I know construction is terrible right now. There are delays in getting materials, you can’t get people to work. The businesses don’t want us to do a temporary hiatus. They want to get it done as soon as possible.”

Mantzaris said incentives are a good option. “It’s probably the best way to go,” the attorney said. “It may end up costing the city more money, but it may get the contract moving forward.”