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Guaranteeing Pavements

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GUARANTEEING PAVEMENTS. Itis a common custom to require the contractor to guarantee the pavement for a term of years, which guarantee is supported either by an indemnifying bond or by a portion of the cost of the pavement retained by the municipality until the expiration of the specified period. In some cases the guarantee is an agreement that if time shall reveal that the materials or the method of construction are not according to the contract, the contractor shall make the defect good; but in other cases, the so-called guarantee is virtually a contract to main tain the pavement for the specified period and to turn it over in good condition at the end of that time.

Apparently the guarantee originated in this country with the introduction of sheet asphalt pavements. The material was new, the method of laying it was untried, and hence no city would run the risk of paying for an unknown and uncertain pavement; consequently the contractor agreed to guarantee the pavement for a period of years. At present most cities continue to exact a guarantee for asphalt pavement, ranging from five to fifteen years, on the ground that the method of testing the material and the manner of laying it are too little understood by engineers, to insure good and durable work without a guarantee. At the beginning of the use of brick as a paving material a guarantee was sometimes demanded; but at present it is as a rule not required with this material.

The requirement of a guarantee of the pavement is justi fiable when the material to be used is new and there is little or no opportunity for the engineering department to acquire the knowl edge necessary r an effective inspection of the work; but as a rule a guarantee, particularly for a long time, is unwise for the following reasons: 1. The contractor has no control over the street after the pavement is completed; and it is difficult to dis criminate between defects due to improper material and the effects of ordinary wear, which may differ materially on different streets. It is also difficult to discriminate between defective workmanship and damages due to causes for which the contractor is in nowise responsible, as, for example, fires, escape of illuminatng gas, set tlement of trenches made after the completion of the pavement, etc. 2. It is difficult to enforce the guarantee clause if, on the one hand, the engineering department inspects the material and accepts the workmanship; and, on the other hand, if a representa tive of the city does not inspect the work there is liability that the streets may be needlessly obstructed and the public greatly inconvenienced by a bungling experiment by the contractor. The difficulty of enforcing a guarantee is much less in a large city where there is more work to be had and where the contractor desires to protect his reputation with a view to securing contracts in the future, than in a small city having but little work; and the diffi culty is still further increased if the law requires that the con tract shall be let to the lowest responsible bidder—as is usually the case.

The contractor objects to the guarantee, not without justice. on the following grounds: 1. The specifications are prepared by the engineering department of the city, and as the quality of the material and the method of construction is prescribed by the city and subject to the approval of its representatives, the contractor should not be held responsible for the result. However, the suffi cient answer to this objection is that the contractor accepts the specifications when he enters into contract, and is therefore right fully bound by them. 2. The expense is needless and excessive, whether an indemnifying bond is required or a per cent of the con tract price is retained, which expense in the long run adds to the cost of the pavement. It is more expensive to the contractor if the city retains a per cent of the contract price, since a portion of his capital is then tied up, which in turn drives out the small con tractor, decreases competition, and tends to increase the cost of the pavement. On the other hand, the interests paying for the pavement are better protected if the city retains a per cent than if an indemnifying bond is accepted, since in the former case the city has the money in hand with which to make the needed repairs in case the contractor fails to do so; but the proper care of such deferred pavements adds materially to the labor and responsibility of municipal administration.

The contributing property holders and citizens favor the guar antee as a defense against incompetent or dishonest city officials and employees. The guarantee is also sometimes defended on the ground that it is the cheapest method of securing good work, since it is impossible at reasonable cost for the engineering depart ment to inspect all stages of the preparation of the material or to acquire the knowledge necessary for an effective supervision of the construction; but in general this claim is not true. It is neither creditable to the engineering profession nor economical to the mu nicipalities to leave all exact knowledge of paving matters in the hands of the paving contractors.

The proper length of the guarantee period is a matter about which there is considerable difference of opinion. For asphalt pavement a guarantee for five years is quite common, although sometimes a fifteen-year guarantee is required. With stone block, brick and most other forms of pavements nine months, or at most a year, is sufficient to reveal any serious defect of ma terial or workmanship, and therefore a long guarantee is not necessary.