Here we don’t go again.

Resumption of the problem plagued Water Street sewer line project has been delayed until at least early January as the town and contractor spar over who is responsible to cover a $4.5 million overrun that has doubled its cost.

The contractor, Northern Construction, was expected to resume work Dec. 4, according to a schedule presented at a public update meeting November 8 hosted by town officials.  But that date came and went with no activity and Northern has notified the town it will not start until the new year.

“We are still talking and I am hopeful that within three or four weeks I can bring to the select board a proposed settlement agreement,” said Town Manager Derek Brindisi. That means the project could be about six weeks behind schedule before it even resumes.

Northern Construction won the 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 $4.5 million project from one construction season to two along with additional groundwater management measures, will cost an extra $4.5 million, according to “change orders” submitted by the contractor, doubling the total to $9 million.

Those change orders, however, have not been approved by the town, Brindisi said. Typically, a contractor will not proceed until a major change order is agreed to by all parties.

“One thing that the contractor and the town agree on is that we have to get this project completed successfully,” Brindisi said.

Had the work resumed on Dec. 4, it was projected to be finished by April 30. Every day that passes without progress pushes the project closer to affecting the economically important summer tourist season.

“I am worried about what this will do to our summer, again,” said Colene Uva, general manager of the Mamma Mia’s restaurant on Water Street. “Last year, it was very bad. The noise, the shaking. And just getting down here was a nightmare. Our business was down 50 percent.”

Northern Construction did not respond to requests for comment.

Michael Cohen can be reached at

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