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Repair of dilapidated library gazebo on hold

By Ralph Echtinaw

Repair of the gazebo outside the St. Louis public library was tabled Tuesday as city councilmen questioned why city administrators recommended a bid of $18,809 over one of $9,000.

The two bidders are Freed Construction and Lott Builders, both of Alma.

Freed’s bid was $18,809, but the cost to the city should be $3,816 less than that, as Library Director Jessica Little said staining of the repaired gazebo can be done by volunteers.

DPW Superintendent Mark Abbott said Lott Builders’ bid is unrealistically low, given the amount of work to be done. Furthermore, Abbott doesn’t like this sentence from the Lott proposal: “Allowances are refundable if under the allowance is spent, if more than the allowance is spent it will be billed as an extra.”

To him that says Lott is trying to give itself a justification to charge more after the actual work begins. “I feel that this is unacceptable,” he said via email.

The gazebo “was created by master craftsman Dick Gibson based on historic photographs of the well house that functioned during the height of the popularity of St. Louis’ magnetic mineral springs,” Little said in a letter to city councilmen. “In the 20 years (since it was built) despite substantial repairs to the cedar board roof system in 2011 and expensive caulking and staining every couple of years the roof and substructure under it must be replaced in its entirety.”

The gazebo’s cedar board roof will be replaced with asphalt shingles, no matter who gets the contract.

You can see in this picture that the cedar boards are deteriorating.

The cedar board roof proved to be a money pit over the years, as it “began to leak badly and a rehab project was done to caulk and repair some of the roof,” Abbott said via email. “This project was short lived due to just doctoring up the old roof, and it leaked again, rotting out the sheathing and ceiling. The way the roof is built the upper dormers must be removed in order to replace the sheathing on the lower roof and then repaired and reinstalled. This is a ridiculous amount of work and costly.”

Councilman Roger Collison objected to spending so much on the gazebo. “I’d rather see (the money) spent on something more useful that would be used more,” he said.

There was a long silence on the conference call after Mayor James Kelly asked for a motion to award the contract to Freed Construction, as recommended by city administrators.

Then Councilman George Kubin made a motion to table the issue. Councilman Bill Leonard quickly supported the motion, and it passed unanimously.

What happens next is anyone’s guess, but chances are the vote will only be delayed until the next meeting.

Helpful suggestion?

Former city councilwoman Melissa Allen attended the virtual meeting and suggested that Building Inspector Paul V. Erskine could be asked to research contractors and see if there are any out there whom the city hasn’t been contacting to bid on projects. 

“The point I was trying to make was for the city to have more contractors on a list to bid out projects,” Allen said via email. “We seem to stick to a small pool of them, and if you ask two or three for quotes, and they don’t all have time, then we might not always get a good value. The more contractors we reach out to, maybe we’d get more quotes and keep it competitive.”

Abbott said he has talked to Erskine about that in the past.

Councilman Bill Leonard cautioned that “you do not want to get into a good old boy program. It’s all kumbaya until a list gets made, madam.”

Building inspector employment agreement

Councilmen voted unanimously to approve a new contract for Building Inspector Paul V. Erskine, 82, of St. Louis.

Erskine now get $17,300/year, up from $14,820, but his paid vacation goes from four weeks a year to two.

The agreement says Erskine must have four hours per week of office hours, but he averages 10 hours of work per week, Giles said. “Plan review, inspections, record-keeping and responding to other calls take the balance of his time.”

“The city is getting Paul at a bargain price,” Leonard said.

Utility poles

Council approved paying $18,753 to Weekes Forest Products of Lake Oswego, Oregon for 61 utility poles ranging in height from 30 feet to 45 feet. The poles will be stored at the wastewater treatment plant yard and be used to replace existing poles as needed.

Other bidders for the sale were Border States Electric Supply of Grand Haven and WESCO Distribution of Pittsburgh, Pa. Their bids were lower overall but didn’t include the same number of poles. Weekes’ bid was the lowest per pole among the three bids.

Asphalt repair

Council approved a $25,000 contract for Rite-Way Asphalt of Shepherd for patch repair on North Main, North Union and East Saginaw. “This work will install intermittent patches to hold these areas that have failed until a future overlay paving project can be performed (currently scheduled for 2022-23 budget year),” said Abbott in a letter to council. Central Asphalt of Mt. Pleasant was asked for a bid but declined.

Fire chief job advertise

Giles told council that an help wanted ad was placed Monday for a fire chief to replace Rich Apps, who recently announced his retirement (effective Dec. 31).

EPA stopped heating Tuesday

Giles said that the heating of Area Two of the Velsicol site just ended, as sufficient quantities of underground contaminants were removed. Consequently, “electric sales will be going down here dramatically,” Giles said.

In an email he added that “consumption has been around 1.2 to 1.5 million kilowatt-hours per month with revenue ranging from around $100,000 to over $130,000 per month.”

The EPA plans to heat the ground in another patch of the Velsicol site next year.

A lighter note

Mayor Kelly announced after the meeting that his 59th wedding anniversary with wife Jacqueline was that day. After the others congratulated him he quipped: “It’s amazing what a woman can endure.”

Categories: Uncategorized

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