Archive for Thursday, June 8, 2006

Downtown project is put on hold

June 8, 2006

For those concerned about the downtown street enhancement project disrupting plans for this summer and the Maple Leaf Festival, relax. It's not going to happen ... this year.

Alan Luttrell of EBH and Associates, the engineering firm overseeing the project, told Baldwin City Council members at Monday's meeting that the number of bidders for the $1.2 million project was less than expected and the lone bid that came in was unacceptable.

"The reality of it is, it was an unacceptable bid," said Luttrell. "People got so busy, they couldn't find subcontractors. What I would recommend is go ahead and delay this thing. Let it out for bids again next fall and construction next year.

"I know we all wanted to get it going, but it didn't happen," he said.

Delays in the project being let out for bids were the main culprit, he said. Originally, the bids were to be let after the first of the year and construction to start in March. However, the bids were not put out until May. Originally, bids were due by May 24, but that was extended to Monday. The lone bid was unacceptable.

Council members were concerned that by not going ahead with the project, the 80 percent matching grant from the Kansas Department of Transportation would be lost. However, Jeff Dingman, city administrator, assured them that wasn't the case. The grant is good for the 2005-2007 year, so the new time line still works.

"There's no possible way if we started tomorrow to get it done with the time crunch," Dingman said of the MLF's annual October run. "From my standpoint, we want to do this project right and to do it now would not be doing it right. I think we'd be better off to delay."

Luttrell also said that Dingman and Public Works Director Bill Winegar needed to review the plans and specifications and possibly make some adjustments. That was another problem with the bidding process.

"I'd like to let it sit for a month, get back with Jeff and Bill and look at it again," he said.

Council members were concerned with the delay, especially the funding, but also wanted to know when the project would be back online.

"So, you're talking about coming back to us in August?" said Council Member Tony Brown.

Council Member Ted Brecheisen Jr. asked if the project could be started after Maple Leaf was over.

"If you have an Indian Summer, that's great," said Luttrell. "I'd hate to have a block torn up and a storm hits. Then there would be a problem with a contractor wanting to pour concrete with frozen ground. That's why I don't like the idea."

"The bids sometime come in better then, when people are looking for work," said Brecheisen.

That idea wasn't considered. Because the delay doesn't effect the grant, Luttrell's idea will be used.

"The main thing is we're not losing anything. No penalties," said Mayor Gary Walbridge.

Donna Curran, president of the Maple Leaf committee, said the group will reconsider its decision to reroute the parade up Sixth Street instead of its usual path up Eighth Street. They had made the switch in the parade route in anticipation of problems with the downtown project.

"I've already sent a mass e-mail out to the committee to get feed back," said Curran. "I think we'll go the old way. I think it was great they thought of us. I appreciate that the city and the county had allowed us to change routes, but that's not going to be necessary now.

"Odds are we will send it down Eighth Street as is tradition," she said. "Since it won't be a problem, we'll probably go down the same route."

As for the Women's Bridge project, which is also being funded 80 percent by KDOT, Dingman said it is progressing and the council was asked to enter an agreement with EBH and Associates for construction administration services on it. The project will cost roughly $1 million to repair the historic bridge on High street between 10th and 11th streets.

"This project, as far as I know, is still moving along," said Dingman. "We are waiting for some environmental questions to be answered. It's not quite as complicated (as the downtown project)."

He said that once the project is let for bids, it will take 90 days to complete. That may happen as soon as July.

"I think this is an appropriate move," Brown said of hiring EBH and Associates.

The measure passed 3-1, with Brecheisen voting against it.

In other action, the council approved 4-0 the appointment of Beau Moody to the Library Board and first readings for a water rate increase to wholesale customers and approving a renewal of a natural gas franchise with Kansas Gas Service.

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