BY LEANN DILBECK –
Work remains at a standstill at Queen Wilhelmina Lodge on its $6.7 million renovation/expansion project that began in March 2012. The Arkansas State Parks terminated its contract with Wade Abernathy, Inc. (W.A.I.) August 30, 2013 for “performance issues,” according to Gregg Butts, Director of the Arkansas State Parks. Upon W.A.I.’s termination, Butts had said that a new licensed contractor would take over the job within 10 business days from the date of termination but to date, a new contractor has yet to be been named.
Butts now says they are finalizing the “take-over agreement” with, Travelers Insurance, the surety on the bond, who in September 2013, Butts said were conducting their own investigation. He said that his staff has submitted all photographs, reports, and other documentation over to them to confirm the alleged grounds for the termination.
Travelers Insurance retained a construction consulting firm, Vertex, based out of Irving, Texas to assist with the analysis of the documentation.
All progress forward has been contingent upon Traveler’s, explained Butts, who said they have been in on-going contractual negotiations with since W.A.I.’s termination, “In order to bring them up to speed on the project.”
The lodge closed in March 2012 and was originally scheduled to re-open by Summer 2013 but that date was delayed until Fall 2013 and then announced in July that it had been pushed forward again to early 2014. With these “extended negotiations,” as Butts called them, with Traveler’s he said the earliest estimate he could make for a possible re-opening date now is Fall 2014 but stressed that a new schedule will be determined once negotiations are finalized. “We are certainly disappointed at these unanticipated delays but we are staying hopeful that construction can resume soon and will be completed to our satisfaction.”
The lodge is considered to be the crown-jewel of the local tourism industry and many small businesses at the foot of the mountain who depend largely on the tourism the lodge generates also share the same “hopefulness” as Butts.
In an interview with The Pulse in July 2013, after the first delay, Butts explained the department estimated $3,500 / day in lost revenue for every day the project runs-over. The most recent delay comes at a cost of a conservative $1.3 million in lost income considering the original re-opening date was for July 2013 and now the “hopeful” re-opening date is Fall 2014.
The project, considered to be at 60% completion, is “in the dry” so officials do not expect weather to be an issue once construction resumes. The park offices, bathhouse and campground do remain open for business.
Butts said the goal of his department is to complete the project as soon as possible so “families can return to making memories at Queen Wilhelmina as they have been doing for decades.”
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