RUSSELL — With the $3.7 million County Line Road reconstruction project anticipated to be complete by September, nine months late, trustees last week agreed to hire legal counsel to protect the township’s interests when it comes time to pay the bill.

“It’s probably the biggest project we’ve ever done, and requires a lot of coordination,” Trustee Jim Mueller said estimating that cost overruns could be as high as 10 percent. “When you’re talking about a $3.7 million project, a 10 percent cost overrun is $370,000.”

That means a likely debate as to who owes the contractor, Trax Construction, he said.

That’s one reason trustees approve a contract with the law firm of Mazanec, Raskin & Ryder of Solon, he said of the action taken on March 30.

“Everybody’s lawyering up. What that means is, Geauga County’s got the prosecutor’s office,” Mr. Mueller said, “and Trax has got, obviously, lawyers, and somebody’s going to have to pay for all this excess work.”

Geauga County Engineer Joe Cattell said this extra work is due to delays caused by an “exorbitant” amount of electricity poles and waterlines that were in the way of construction. Mr. Cattell said that although 97 percent of Geauga County residents use well water, County Line Road has water lines owned by the Cleveland Division of Water.

“First Energy, once the project got started, decided to remove and replace any pole for 4 miles on the project,” said Joe Ciuni, the village engineer for Hunting Valley who collaborated with the GPD Group in designing the project.

Mr. Ciuni said, even with the utility concerns, he thought the project could still have been completed by December of 2019.

“Had everything gone perfectly it could’ve been done,” he said. “And the contractor agreed. We put it in there, we gave them a deadline, and nobody complained about the deadline when they did the job. They all said they could do it in that timeframe, and I think it could’ve been done.”

The number of parties involved in the project complicates the matter further since County Line Road is in both Geauga and Cuyahoga counties. Russell is in Geauga and most of Hunting Valley is in Cuyahoga.

Mr. Cattell said this project is unlikely to encounter legal issues since delays are a natural part of this process.

“Construction projects are out in the real world, they’re not in an office,” he said, “so there’s always variables and it’s just a matter of how well you can juggle those and manage them to get it done. I’m confident that this project’s going to finish up here this summer and it’ll look great when it’s done.”

Mr. Mueller said the board signed the $5,000 contract with Mezanec, Raskin & Ryder because the township has had good experiences working with this firm.

“Everybody’s going to have to give a little bit,” Mr. Mueller said. “We’re going to pay some, Hunting Valley will pay more and Geauga County and the [contractor] will have to come to some kind of agreement. I’m sure that some of the cost overrun, they’re going to have to eat.”

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