Bland water project budget cut by $519,000, replacement piping revised

By Roxie Murphy, Staff Writer
Posted 1/13/21

BLAND — Bland aldermen learned Dec. 14 that after nearly five years of trying to replace the city’s water infrastructure, they have to find a way to drop $519,000 from the project — …

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Bland water project budget cut by $519,000, replacement piping revised


BLAND — Bland aldermen learned Dec. 14 that after nearly five years of trying to replace the city’s water infrastructure, they have to find a way to drop $519,000 from the project — partly due to an increase in materials — which could cut up to two-thirds of water-line replacement.

Integrity Engineering’s Michael Spengler told aldermen that he took numbers from the previous bids for three contracts to come up with the amount that needed to be cut.

“We took estimates and their numbers for each of the contracts and you can see here, it’s $2,444,000,” Spengler began. “If you go through with the other bond fees, legal fees and stuff, it winds up being $2,899,000. Below that, you can see what we have for the project turns out to be $2,380,000. We are kind of over budget $519,000.”

Spengler said he has been working to get that number back down within the budget parameters.

“On the right-hand side, we have took each of the contracts, by reducing contracts one through three we have been able to bring it down to $1,946,000, and with the fees it comes out to $2,383,000,” Spengler said.

He began cutting from contract one, by dismantling the old city water tower.

“Something does need to happen with it, but it doesn’t need to happen in this contract,” Spengler said. “If you can do that in a contract on it’s own, you wouldn’t have to pay prevailing wage.” 

He also suggested removing the demolition of the brick tower from contract two for the same reason. It needs to happen prior to the new tower being built, but it doesn’t have to be in the scope of this contract.

“So if we can find a local bricklayer or contractor that we don’t have to pay prevailing wages, we could get a better estimate from them on what it would cost?” Mayor Lee Medlock said.

City Clerk Carrie Krup said that the city’s engineer, Terris Cates, had previously said the brick tower was structurally unsafe.

“Right, that needs to be addressed first,” Spengler said. “You have a few more years on the water tower yet that can be used. It will hold water and stuff like that.”

Public Works Director Jason Lewis said they could still have the tower demolished, but they don’t want to do it on this project scope. Krupp agreed, adding that her understanding of the project was that particular brick tower was unsafe and could come down at any time. Spengler agreed.

“For us, we had to figure out how to get $500,000 out of the project,” Spengler said. “Under contract three, we had enough in the project to do 15,000 feet of removal of four-inch pipe and adding six inch pipe,” Spengler said. “We are pulling 9,000 (feet) out of it so we would do 5,000 linear feet of new pipe.” 

“Where are you pulling it out of?” Lewis asked.

“We were going to do 15,000 feet, but now we would not do 9,000 feet,” Spengler said.

Lewis asked where that pipe wouldn’t be laid and Spengler said he doesn’t know what area, they would need to discuss the critical areas to do the 5,000 feet.

“I know you guys are wanting this, but we have to look at the numbers here,” Spengler said. 

Medlock said he wasn’t sure that he understood. 

“Wasn’t this supposed to take care of all the old (cast iron) pipe?” Medlock asked. 

Spengler said it was supposed to eliminate all the cast iron piping and now it would only eliminate about a third of that.

“This is something me and Jason and the rest of us will have to talk to Terris about too,” Medlock said. “If we are only doing a third of it, why mess with it? That’s not really doing us any good, is it? Other than going through the places that need leaks repaired?”

Lewis said the entire south side of the city is rotten and Medlock said they have had leaks over there that they have been limping through as long as he has been in office.

“Almost two years that we have been waiting for this project, that is why we didn’t fix those leaks because we are putting a new line in,” Medlock said.

Lewis said they are going to have to fix it one way or the other. Alderman Mark Ferran suggested being selective during replacement.

“We are crunching the numbers just enough to balance the budget,” Spengler said. “Of the 5,000 feet we can do, what areas do we need to hit?”

The next three items that go along with the 9,000 linear feet of water line are the finished grading, the start of the water meter hookups, and the new water valves. If they are not replacing that area, they wouldn’t need it.

“The radiometers we had to remove, I believe there are 22 of them —,” Spengler began.

“That is not going to help us at all,” Lewis said. “They are just replacing 22 that were in the basements.”

Krupp asked why they would put the radio read in if they are taking the meters out of the basements. Lewis said exactly.

“The thing is we are changing everything on this project, and I would rather have the ones (radio-read meters) in the basement that we can read, versus dig out and read in them meter wells. That was the whole deal we had when we had rain and snow and not bein’ able to get down and read the meters. Then we had to guess, and then people weren’t happy.” Medlock said.

Lewis asked if Spengler was there at the beginning of the water project because the whole purpose was just to replace the water pipes.

“We got over budget when we started adding the water tower,” Lewis persisted.

Spengler said when he did the survey, he remembers doing the water lines and it went from there.

“Of the radiometers, we would keep about 22 of the three-quarter-inch that would replace the ones that are in the basements, do the two-inch meters for the schools, and see if we could replace 10 or 20 a year (throughout town),” Spengler said.

Lewis said there is no way the town could afford to replace 10 to 20 meters a year.

“This is taking out a lot of stuff that I thought was originally —,” Medlock said. “Jason and I and whoever else wants to do this can go through it. We changed the tower location and moved it closer where we wouldn’t have to dig all that out there by the park. The cost of putting the water tower in the place where we are at right now — I thought that would help us out quite a bit and now it has definitely changed a lot.”

Krupp agreed but said that isn’t all.

“The water tower keeps throwing us over for one and our engineering fees aren’t getting any cheaper either,” she said. “So we are going to have to decide what we can and can’t do with it.”

Ferran asked about the contract estimates from last time and if they have gotten bids this time. Spengler said that is the projected estimate that Ferran had.

“Handout three is item by item on each of the contracts,” Spengler said.

He suggested the mayor and board go through the contracts item by item.

“Does the water tower need replaced right away or the pipes need replaced right away,” Krupp asked. “Pipes right?”

Lewis agreed that pipes were worse than the water tower, but he hasn’t been on the tower to see it.

“We’ve got some pictures that Terris (Cates) gave us somewhere,” Medlock said. “The thing is, we want to get as close to budget as we can. On top of that is what we are getting out of it. What it’s soundin’ like what we are gettin’ out of it is, we’ve been tellin’ everybody in town that they are getting all new water lines over there, new water meters and a new water tower and now its just, to me, we are gonna have to really go over this.”

Lewis said it’s ridiculous how much debt the town would have to go into to fix a couple of blocks.

“It’s not what the people voted on,” Lewis said. 

Krupp agreed and said they would have to take a loan out for $220,000 and a second loan for $650,000.

“There are some pipes that are going to have to be fixed, so can we afford to fix them or do what we can?” Lewis asked.

Spengler said that he understands that none of it needs to leave, it is all necessary. Lewis said the 22 meters going into basements are unnecessary compared to everything else because they would have to buy the software for just those 22 meters and they aren’t the ones the city is having trouble with.

Lewis said 90 percent of what they have that needs to be replaced meter-wise will need to be dug up and a new pit placed in the t-bones.

“There is a lot that goes to it and if it is coming out of our actual budget, it’s gonna cost us,” Lewis said.

The board agreed that they would set up a meeting with Cates to see where they can best move forward with the project.

“I know it’s been goin’ forever, but we want to get it started,” Medlock said. “It’s holding us off from patching the roads too, cause we know it’s got to be tore up.”

Lewis said that without replacing pipes, there wasn’t any point to moving forward, and Medlock agreed they have several places where they have been holding off.

Ferran asked if taking the water tower out would still allow them to get all the funding from the grant. No one knew for sure, but Medlock suggested that if that couldn’t happen, they focus on replacing water meters and pipes and refurbish the water tower.

“We promised people these meters and pipes,” Medlock said.

“Well, we have people who have leaks under their houses that we can’t find and their houses are sinking a little,” Lewis said. “We’ve got streets just bubbling up because — pipes is the main thing.”

Medlock said there are some places where the pipe wouldn’t need to be replaced, and Lewis agreed if they could look at a map and determine which places could wait, that would be better. But it wouldn’t include two-thirds of pipe being taken out of the project. 

Aldermen asked how long their water tower is still good for, and Lewis said Cates said three or four years. He can’t say anything more, because then he would be liable.

“Belle’s water tower wasn’t supposed to be no good either and it’s been there several years,” Lewis said.

Cates attended the Jan. 11 meeting to answer the board’s questions about the project.


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