By Ralph Echtinaw
Property owners will receive a hefty increase in water and sewer bills if city council proceeds with reconstruction of North Pine and part of Center streets this year.
Last December it was estimated that the complete reconstruction of North Pine and part of Center Street would cost $3.8 million. (That would entail replacement of sewer and water lines in addition to a new road surface.) But bids came in at $5.5 million from Crawford Contracting of Mt. Pleasant and $6 million from McGuick Sand & Gravel of Mt. Pleasant, throwing a king size monkey wrench into the city’s plans.
Accepting either bid would necessitate selling municipal bonds to raise money. Bond council Andy Campbell of Baker Tilly Municipal Advisors estimates that the city’s payments would be $373,000/year with a 15-year bond.
Finance Director Bobbi Marr said the city would have to raise an additional $243,000 per year to make the payments. That’s an average of $174 a year from each of the city’s 1,400 water and sewer customers.
Homeowners would likely pay less than $174 a year, while customers with large-diameter water lines would pay more, said City Manager Kurt Giles. But he can’t give precise figures at this time. “We’re unable to provide much more information until some further rate analysis has been completed,” he said.
Campbell told city council Monday that many other municipalities are in the same boat.
“It’s happening with a lot of communities where bids are coming in drastically over,” he said. “We are seeing this and having discussions all over the place and trying to figure out what to do about cost overruns.”
One option is to postpone the project in hope that construction prices will fall. Campbell called that a “big risk.” Giles said “we don’t expect construction costs to be lower later. This might be the best price we get on the Pine/Center reconstruction. We are hoping to build this this season.”
Campbell recommended accepting Crawford’s $5.5 million bid contingent on getting a favorable interest rate on the bonds. If council approves that at the April 4 meeting it will be mid to late May before the bond interest rate is known. In that scenario, the city could pull out of the deal, leaving Crawford Construction high and dry.
All this comes after the city raised water and sewer rates 10 percent a year over the last five years. Two more such annual increases were planned. But that could change if city council approves the $5.5 million deal with Crawford Contracting and hikes water and sewer rates to pay for it.
Water main project postponed
Giles announced Tuesday that the planned water main replacement project on Prospect, Hebron, Wells, Tamarack & Berea streets has been postponed on account of the aforementioned high cost of Pine/Center reconstruction.
“Due to volatility of the construction pricing and availability of contractors, we have decided to delay this program again,” said Public Services Director Keith Risdon.
New wheel loader
Council went along with the administration’s proposal to replace the city’s 926M Caterpillar wheel loader this fall. “Due to the interest in this size loader and the condition in which we maintain our equipment, CAT has increased our trade-in value to $145,000,” Risdon said.
The DPW will receive a new 930M wheel loader that retails for $265,000. Subtract the $145,000 trade-in credit, and the city is out $120,000.
After a three-year hiatus, the city will restart its sanitary sewer manhole sealing program. This is necessary because “many of the older structures in the sanitary sewer system were constructed of brick,” Risdon said. “Over time the mortar joints fail allowing groundwater to enter the sewer.”
Manholes at Franklin and Hazel, East and Walnut, Hazel and Mill and near 418 South Mill will be sealed this year. Advanced Rehabilitation Technology of Bryan, Ohio has agreed to do the work for less than $10,000.
Council voted to spend $34,000 with Hutson of St. Louis on three John Deere Z930M ZTrak mowers with a trade-in value of $14,500 for the city’s 3-year-old mowers. The total outlay for the city is $19,600. Giles said the old mowers have 700-1,000 hours on them.
Council approved the administration’s request to spend up to $10,000 for holiday decorations that will adorn lamp posts come November. “This expenditure would be funded through our street and public lighting line item, which is well-positioned for an expense of up to $10,000,” Giles said in a letter to council members.
I for one am not in favor of any more increases in our water and sewer. We have already paid the increases and still do not have enough money? Reject all bids, tell these companies to sharpen their pencils or no deal. Next the city will want to increase the electric rates, this has been mentioned in the past. The city residents are already dealing with increased prices on everything, we cannot afford more. It may be time to sell and move out of St. Louis.
Nice to see you’re a real person and live around here, Frank. To your final point, I submit that municipal infrastructure improvements won’t be more affordable in other cities and/or townships.
I understand Ralph. I am just tired of all the increases, insurance, fuel, food, health care. My income only increased by 3% over the past 2 years. We are through the meat and nicking the bone.
At times like this I like to remember the words of a bumper sticker I used to have: Despite the high cost of living, it’s still quite popular.
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