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City of Taylorsville officials have elected to pursue a downsized version of a mandated wastewater treatment plant expansion after initial construction bids came back much higher than anticipated.
The Taylorsville City Commission, in a special meeting Dec. 29, unanimously voted to approve several cost-cutting measures for the proposed expansion and enter into “competitive negotiations” with contractors who a few weeks earlier submitted the three lowest bids on the original design.
A total of $1.14 million in savings presented by consulting firm Sisler-Maggard Engineering was accepted by city officials, a dollar figure tied primarily to a reduction in the facility size to 750,000 gallons per day from the one million gallons per day envisioned in the original plan.
Pressing deadlines prompted the special meeting, including a state-mandated April 30 cutoff to begin the project.
Construction costs for the facility was originally projected at $2.6 million — based on five-year-old estimates by Sisler-Maggard – but the lowest bid received on Dec. 9 was $3,853,400.
Even with the reductions – which will lower the actual construction costs to about $2.71 million – the total project cost, including various fees, services and equipment purchases, will still approach $3.44 million.
“We don’t have a choice,” said Taylorsville Mayor Don Pay during the meeting. “They (state officials) have us by the short hairs. We have got to do something. And our current system is not acceptable.”
Pay said during the meeting and afterward in an interview that he had a hard time understanding how the original estimate of $2.6 million could have been so low.
“I guess I am having trouble getting my gourd around this — that we have a million capacity project that we had been looking at $2.6 million to fund it, and here we are with a reduced capacity plant costing about $3.5 million,” he told Sisler-Maggard executives attending the meeting.
“We’ve had that $2.6 million figure in our minds for sometime now,” he continued. “When we saw that the bids came in and saw how high they were, it’s been a shock to everyone.”
Seven bids were received on Dec. 9 for the original design, and five totaled more than $4 million, including a high of $4.7 million. The commission agreed to accept the suggestion of Sisler-Maggard to negotiate with the three lowest bidders rather than offer it up for a new bidding process.
“The quality of the bidders you have are excellent,” said Joe Sisler, president of Sisler-Maggard. “In fact the whole group of seven are good quality contractors. So, in re-bidding, you may not get any of those back. They may get frustrated and say they aren’t going to bid again. And you may end up with someone who is not quality.”
Herrick Company Inc. of Lawrenceburg was the lowest overall bidder at $3,853,400, or roughly 50 percent higher than the pre-bid estimate. Pace Contracting of Jeffersonville, Ind., was second at $3,950,000, while Howell Contactors of Ft. Wright was third at $4,047,000.
Some items removed from original design can be added later, officials stressed. Included, among others, is a $236,000 telemetry system, which would provide remote monitoring of plant data; an eight-foot high chain link fence and accompanying barb wire that would have cost $70,000; and asphalt paving estimated at $24,000.
“Those are things that are nice to have, but you don’t have to have them to operate the plant,” said City Clerk Steve Biven. “We can add them in down the road as a capital expense in the same way of buying a vehicle or something like that. As we can afford it, we’ll add those in. They don’t have to be part of this project.”
And the 750,000 gallon flow capacity can be easily expanded to one million or even two million gallons as needed, Sisler said.
“If the time comes that you need to expand to one million (gallons), that will be a good day, because that means these lots are full and revenue will be coming in,” he said, noting at least 1,100 existing vacant lots set to tie into the city facility.
One developer who attended the meeting later expressed concerns with The Spencer Magnet about the entire wastewater system. Bill Drury, a former Fiscal Court magistrate who is one of the developers of the Early Wyne subdivision, in an email said he understood the short-term decision to reduce the size of the city facility, but argued that proper planning would have prevented such last-minute decisions.
“What this county as a whole seriously needs, and has needed for some time now, is a water board with equal representation of county and city board members who understand the process,” he wrote in part. “Had it been done six years ago, they would have been working towards accomplishing their goals, and not waiting for the engineers to do so.”
The current facility, which handles about 200,000 gallons, services 536 combined business and residential customers.
City officials previously secured $2.6 million in funding through grants and loans. The remaining $842,000 needed for the expansion is projected to come from the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development Utilities Services program in the way of $580,000 loan and a $262,000 grant. Total loans with the USDA program for the project would total $1,440,000.