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Town to reject bid for sewer replacement because of cost

Vic Bradshaw
Frederick News Post

(2/5/04) The lone bid received for the replacement of the town’s Little Run sewer line likely will be rejected, but the town manager said the project is not in danger.

David Haller informed the board of commissioners on Monday that the bid for the project was $703,000, twice the cost that was estimated by Fox & Associates Inc., the firm that engineered the project. The town manager said Wednesday, the price is too high for the town.

"We have to do (the line replacement project). There’s no question about it," he said. "But we can’t cripple ourselves by being in too big a hurry on this.

"You can’t pay $700,000 for a project that is estimated to be $350,000. Granted, things run over, but you can’t run over that far."

The project is considered vital to the town’s efforts to reduce wildwater infiltration and inflow, which has caused some sewage spills. In places, town officials have said, the line is collapsed, and it is considered to be the major problem area for the system.

Mr. Haller said it appears that the timing of the project might have been bad because large contractors apparently have plenty of work now. Though at least six companies attended the bid conference, only one bid.

The nature of the project also might have affected interest in it, Mr. Haller said. Replacing the line means a company has to handle the logistics of pumping sewage around the section being worked on. New construction generally is simpler.

The project will be reassessed and probably put out to bid again, Mr. Haller said. The town also might decide not to replace some manholes, which would reduce cost, and change the way the project is managed, handling it as a series of small projects rather than one big one.

Changing the way the project is handled could affect the cost. The town requires bidders to post a bond for the bid amount plus 15 percent to ensure that the work gets done, Mr. Haller said, and only a small percentage of companies can get bonded for a large-scale project. Doing it in small sections and releasing the bond when a section is completed would allow smaller contractors to enter the picture.

"That puts more local people in the mix," the town manager said of treating the replacement as a series of small projects. "Only doing a section at a time, you get people closer to home who work more at the rates we’re accustomed to. There’s not a lot of local people who can get a bond" for $500,000 to $700,000.

The drawback to doing the project in segments, Mr. Haller said, is that town staffers have to be more involved with the project. He said the workload for staff members probably has doubled in the past five years, but the staff size hasn’t increased.

The bid process takes 60 days, and Mr. Haller said the town generally takes a week or two to analyze the bids before accepting one. The job should take about six months, so he estimated that most, if not all, of the line could be replaced this year.

The town has asked the state for a $300,000 low-interest loan for the project. Mr. Haller said state officials have said the town might be able to get as much as $600,000.

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