Southern Hills sewer issue tabled by city

Thursday, April 19, 2007

An hour and a half discussion with Southern Hills residents during Monday night s city council meeting prompted Cassville aldermen to table an ordinance that would have awarded the bid for construction of a new sewer system for the subdivision.

The council s decision to delay action on the construction contract was made to give aldermen the opportunity to investigate whether or not the city could afford to budget more money for the project.

Residents who attended the meeting said they were not informed that over $100,000 in additional service and professional fees would be included in the total project cost. Based on information presented by engineer Kevin Sprenkle at Monday night s meeting, the total cost of the project has now risen to around $897,000.

This is the first time we ve heard about these other fees, said Terry Heinz, Southern Hills resident.

In the original petition to form a Neighborhood Improvement District (NID) to help finance the project, Southern Hills property owners were given an estimated project cost of $780,000. When the city s promised contribution of $400,000 was subtracted from the total estimated cost, homeowners were given the amount of $380,000 as their portion of project costs.

Based on these initial figures, homeowners were told the sewer improvements could cost them around $6,666.67 per property owner. These are the numbers that appear in the original NID petition that was signed by 56 homeowners. Based on the estimates shared by Sprenkle on Monday night, the cost per owner now stands at around $8,638.28, which is a 29 percent increase over original estimates. Southern Hills portion of the project cost has also risen from $380,000 to $497,000.

Sprenkle explained that assessments would be spread over 20 years with a very low 2.2 interest rate. Under this payment schedule, homeowners would pay about $553 a year or $46 a month for new sewer service. The cost of the project would be assessed annually on the property owner s county tax statement.

At least half of the 26 people who attended Monday s council meeting expressed their fear that the costs of the project were rising too quickly.

Don t get me wrong, I m all for the sewer project, but you have to know the undertone you are hearing is because many of us are retired and on fixed incomes, said Patti Eskildsen, another resident of Southern Hills. We re frightened.

Sprenkle reminded residents that project costs were only estimated and the actual per-homeowner cost would not be finalized until the project was completed.

Bids for the Southern Hills sewer project were opened last Thursday with eight contractors bidding on the project. Sprenkle presented the council and Southern Hills residents with a copy of his bid tabulation during Monday s meeting.

Base bids ranged from a low of $768,609.66 submitted by AMC Excavation, of Willow Springs, to a high of $1,092,673.92 submitted by HillHouse Services of Verona. Other bids received were as follows: $850,872.05, G&G Construction Company, of Carthage; $851,654.75, C-2 Products Construction, of Nixa; $855,984.60, Kenny Singer Construction, of Aurora; $929,003.72, Polston Construction, of Lamar; $946,344.80, A Team Construction, of Fayetteville, Ark.; and $1,072,732.28, Seven Valleys Construction, of Cassville.

The city also bid an alternate deduct that reduces the cost of the project by using compacted dirt fill rather than granular stone to fill in the trenches around the sewer lines.

If the council were to choose to accept the alternate deduct, the contract price submitted by AMC Excavation would be lowered to $662,823.27. It is that amount that Sprenkle used to calculate the cost estimates he presented to Southern Hills homeowners on Monday night.

I haven t had eight bidders on a project in I don t know how long, said Sprenkle. These are reasonable bids, and all in all, this was a good bid opening.

The low bid came in $40,000 over Sprenkle s initial construction estimate of $724,000. Sprenkle recommended that the council accept the low bid submitted by AMC Excavation and also take the alternate deduct to lower the cost of the project.

After hearing residents concerns over increasing costs, Alderman Pete Landstad made a motion that the council table the bid award ordinance until the May 7 meeting to give the council time to discuss the possibility of increasing the city s contribution toward the project above the $400,000 budgeted.

We have a capital planning session in three weeks and we ll look at city projects over the next five years, said Landstad. This gives us the chance to look at the city s finances and see if we can come up with money to help offset the increase in fees. But remember, I m not promising anything.

Landstad s motion was seconded by Joe Cavness and received unanimous support from the council.

New mayor Tracy Holle told the Southern Hills residents that the council was working in good faith and had learned from its experience of installing a new water and sewer system in the Sherwood Forest subdivision.

The council has tried very hard to even things out better and learn from past mistakes, said Holle.

Sprenkle said the construction bids were good for 60 days. Once a contract was awarded, the contractor would have 270 days to complete the project. Sprenkle estimated that the project could begin around the first of June and be completed by March of 2008.

In other business, the council:

" Certified results from the April 3 election. New mayor Tracy Holle and re-elected incumbent Sue Brattin and Pete Landstad were sworn into office.

" Outgoing mayor Jim Craig was honored for his service to the city. He received a plaque of appreciation from Community 2000 and the Youth Advisory Board and an inscribed gift from the council and city employees. Craig also read a statement of thanks, which is reprinted in its entirety on page 4 of this week s Cassville Democrat.

" Approved a resolution authorizing the filing of a grant application with the Missouri Department of Transportation to assist in sidewalk improvements, curb and gutter and street lights along a portion of Highway Y between Wildcat Drive and the high school.

" Heard an administrator s report from Mike Hayslip who reported that the city would receive $14,205.50 from the Federal Emergency Manage-ment Agency and $1,894.06 from the State Emergency Management Agency for costs incurred by the city for clean-up following the January ice storm.

" Passed a resolution approving construction of the new Barry County E-911 Center in Cassville,

" Voted to pay bills totalling $110,134.22.

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