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Pole 'standoff' ends to city's advantage

The city rejected all 33 streetlight poles for the Cascade Avenue reconstruction project after they arrived with a faulty finish. The manufacturer re-finished the poles this fall, and they were erected along Cascade Avenue.

Since the Journal's report in early October on the completion of the multi-million dollar Cascade Avenue reconstruction project, the case of the faulty-finish poles has ended well -- with a $100,000 credit to the city.

Toward the end of the project, the manufacturer Holophane delivered 33 streetlight poles that were supposed to have a smooth-black, anodized, powder-coated finish. Instead, the aluminum poles bore a cracked, peeling and discolored surface.

The city refused the "product" and began negotiating with the vendor. Streetlights are a long-lead-time item, and Cascade had to have lights erected to be safe and re-open on schedule. River Falls couldn't wait for another or different set of poles.

The two entities considered using the poles with a faulty finish then swapping them out for new ones next spring. As of October, nobody was sure how the situation would be resolved.

City Engineer Reid Wronski said last week that the manufacturer refinished the poles, and they look good. However, River Falls still rejected the poles because they didn't have the high-quality finish originally ordered.

The engineer said in October that the city had not skimped when selecting the finish -- aiming to procure one that would need little maintenance and look good for the long term. Wronski characterizes the re-finish as "still not exactly right."

He said the main difference is that the newly applied finish may not perform as well as the city wants or expects.

Wronski said as they worked through all the possible options, it became obvious that all would not only be costly but also create more disruption on Cascade Avenue.

He said, "We came to an agreement that we get the poles for free, basically."

The total value comes to about $100,000, and Wronski said there are absolutely no issues with the functionality or specifications of the lights themselves -- only the finish on the poles compared to what was originally ordered. He said the poles can be repainted when the finish erodes.

Meanwhile, they're functional and look nice. Wronski adds that the pole manufacturer has been responsive and cooperative.

He concluded, "We are pleased with the way the situation was resolved."