Work on the Water Street sewer project has restarted even as lawyers for the town and a private contractor try to hammer out a settlement over an estimated $4.5 million cost overrun.

On Tuesday, Jan. 2, a team from Northern Construction began fencing off the work area and installing Jersey barriers that will restrict Water Street to one lane of traffic heading south between Chilton and Brewster streets.

In this first phase of activity, the contractor will secure the site, set up its field office, and bring in materials and heavy equipment. The actual construction work is expected to begin during the week of Jan. 8.

Meanwhile, Town Manager Derek Brindisi said lawyers are working to finalize a financial agreement that he can present to the select board for approval within days.

Northern Construction of Palmer won the original contract in 2022 with a low bid of $4.5 million to install a quarter-mile section of 30-inch sewer pipe under Water Street to replace the existing line that runs under the edge of the harbor.

Work began in December 2022 and was supposed to be finished by the end of June 2023 to lessen the impact on the tourist season. But groundwater problems, shifting soil, and damage to the street, sidewalks, and five buildings on Water and Chilton streets forced a shutdown of the project so engineers could evaluate the site and the construction methods used.

The delay – which extended the project from one construction season to two – along with additional groundwater management measures, added another $4.5 million, according to “change orders” submitted by the contractor, pushing the total project cost to $9 million.

The magnitude of those change orders, and how much the town may have to pay to cover the added costs, is the subject of negotiations.

Michael Cohen can be reached at

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