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Unprecedented rainfall slows construction work
Construction of Forsyth County's animal shelter has been delayed by the seemingly relentless rain. - photo by Crystal Ledford

While historically the old refrain “rain, rain go away” has been commonly sung by children, many adults in north Georgia have likely turned to the chant in recent months.

And for those who work in the construction field, it has probably become a daily mantra.

John Derucki, owner and president of Derucki Construction, was blunt when asked about this year’s rainfall and the impact it has had on his business.

“You would think that an industry that has been hit so hard by the economy could get a break,” he said. “Just as things are slowly coming around, now we’re having to deal with just so much rain.

“I mean that’s just dollar signs burning up every time it rains.”

Derucki said the unusually wet spring and summer has meant delays on nearly all of the company’s projects, including one at Pinecrest Academy in south Forsyth.

“We’re doing a façade renovation down there, which is all outdoor work,” Derucki said. “[School leaders] would have liked to have gotten the work down before school started back [earlier this month], but there’s literally nothing we can do to maneuver around it.”

The weather has caused problems for some big county government construction projects as well.

Steve Rhoades, capital projects manager for Forsyth’s public facilities department, said probably the most hard-hit has been the animal shelter, which will be on County Way in north Forsyth.

The 13,761-square-foot facility is being funded through revenue from the special purpose local option sales tax, or SPLOST VII, approved by voters in November 2011.

Since rain is the most disruptive in early stages of construction projects, Rhoades said progress has been slow going at the animal shelter site.

“The things that are the most impacted by rain days are when they’re at the site development phase, the slab prep and pour phase, and the preparation for paving for parking lots and driveways,” he said.

“Those are the big areas and guess what? It got all three at the animal shelter.”

Some other county projects, such as Fire Station 3 that opened last month and the Post Road library, which debuts Saturday, weren’t affected by the wet conditions.

“[Those projects] were finishing up during this rain period, but they were at a point where it didn’t really impact them since [workers] were mostly inside. They were able to finish on time.”

The county’s new jail and courthouse, which are being built in downtown Cumming, have also been somewhat impacted by the weather, though not to the extent of the animal shelter.

“The rainy weather has caused a slight delay in some of the work,” said county spokeswoman Jodi Gardner, but due to the phase of the work “is not expected to impact the overall schedule.”

Both of those projects, also funded by sales tax revenue, are slated to be finished by the end of 2014.

Derucki said rain delays add up to more than most people may realize.

“On an average commercial project, I’d say it probably costs a contractor $1,000 a day every time that it rains,” he said. “And the hard part is, if you’re just coming out of the ground, you’ve got to wait two or three days for it to dry out before you can get back on it.

“So every day of rain is equal to three more days of waiting for it to dry out.”

Rhoades added that wet days “affect everybody all down the line.”

“The way we pay on a construction project is after you do a certain amount of work, you get paid for that work,” he said.

“So if you don’t do the work, then you don’t get paid … basically, they have to wait until they can complete their portion [of the project] to get paid.”

It may be a while before some of the crews working at the animal shelter get paid.

Rhoades said contractors at that site have recorded more than 43 inches of rainfall since grading began on the project in mid-March.

“We’ve just really gotten beat up bad on that one,” he said.

“[The contractors] have their milestones and, yes, they’re definitely set back. They had hoped at this point to have the walls up and we still don’t even have the floors poured.”

As a result, the project is slated to open sometime in spring 2014. It was originally scheduled to open at the beginning of the year.

“Now if it dries up tomorrow and we get nice, pretty weather, gosh, it could be sooner than that,” Rhoades said. “But I don’t think any of us are expecting that.”

That would be nice for Derucki, too. But like Rhoades, he’s not holding his breath.

“I would put [2013] up there as the worst year that I can remember in terms of rain in my 30-year career in construction,” he said. “I mean, it just keeps coming and you don’t get a break.

“A little bit here and there isn’t too bad. Everybody expects it. But to this extent, it’s just crazy.”