City council takes “big risk” by postponing indefinitely North Pine Street project

By Ralph Echtinaw

North Pine residents can forget about having sewer and water lines replaced this year, as city council voted unanimously Tuesday to shelve the project over high costs.

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.

Council members were told at the second March meeting that the city would have to raise an additional $243,000 per year to make the payments if it issues bonds to finance the project. That’s an average of $174 a year from each of the city’s 1,400 water and sewer customers.

Bond council Andy Campbell of Baker Tilly Municipal Advisors estimated that the city’s payments would be $373,000/year with a 15-year bond.

Campbell told city council last month 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.”

Postponing the project would be a “big risk,” Campbell told council members in March. City Manager Kurt Giles added that “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.”

Having two weeks to refine an action plan, Giles came up with a proposal to do the project by taking $625,000 from the major street reserves fund, $1.28 million from the the public improvement fund and $300,000 from the general fund.

But city council “approved a motion to reject all bids and defer the project indefinitely,” Giles said. “Stopgap measures such as street resurfacing were discussed. However, no action was taken in that regard.”

Editor’s note: A virus prevented this reporter from personally attending the April 4 City Council meeting, or coverage would be more extensive.

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