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TH campground four months behind schedule

According to Councilor Seth McDonald, the City of Two Harbors hoped to rent spots at the expanded Burlington Bay Campground this fall.

But the project, which was slated to be finished in mid-July, still hasn't been completed to the city's standards.

"We potentially could have had rentals ... this fall. Not only are we without a campground that's finished, there's potential revenue loss," McDonald said.

The $1.25 million project, paid for by state bonding and an IRRRB grant, was approved in February and Northland Constructors worked on the project throughout the spring and summer. SEH Engineering was hired to provide oversight of the project, but crews left the campground sometime in August said TH Council President Jerry Norberg.

When city officials inspected the site after a rainstorm that month, they found that extensive erosion had occurred, including a three-foot gully next to a stairway, Norberg said. The reason for the erosion hasn't been pinpointed - design flaw, lack of vegetation and blacktop problems are possible contributors - but the city maintains that it should not be wholly responsible for repairs, as they have not yet signed off on the project.

The city, SEH and Northland have met in recent weeks to determine what needs to be done to complete the campground project and how payment will be handled. The erosion is the biggest problem, but a few other tasks must be completed, too. Norberg said that the parties have reached an agreement, but the city will not sign off on the project until spring to ensure that the erosion problems have been effectively addressed.

"Once we sign off as it's complete, then anything that happens is on the taxpayer's dime. We're not going to sign off on it until we're convinced that the major issues have been resolved," Norberg said.

The expansion, located between Highway 61 and First Street, adds 36 motorhome sites to the current Burlington Bay Campground just across the street. In total, over 100 sites will be available when the project is completed.

The city is withholding a portion of the payment until it is satisfied with the project. According to Norberg, language in the contract with SEH and Northland also allows the city to charge a penalty of up to $1000 for every day beyond the July completion date that the project goes unfinished-- now four months and counting.

"It's up to us on whether we want to invoke that clause or not. That will probably be a negotiated thing," he said.

Norberg said he is still hopeful of a spring grand opening. Because state bonding money was used, city councilors are anticipating a visit from Gov. Mark Dayton for the grand opening, and they want to be sure the campground is ready.

"We're not going to take ownership of that property until we see grass grow in the spring," Norberg said.

Calls to SEH Engineering seeking comment were not returned by press time.

LaReesa Sandretsky
LaReesa Sandretsky is a Two Harbors High School graduate and Duluth native who began working at the News-Chronicle in 2012 as a reporter. She took over as editor in 2014. She covers County Board, including the Lake County broadband project.
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