SALEM - City Utilities Commission member Geoff Goll said now may be the time to discuss lowering the sewer rates, since the wastewater treatment plant upgrade should satisfy state requirements and a built-up reserve fund will cover the costs.
"I would think this would be the appropriate time to do this," he said Tuesday before the commission approved contracts for the Phase I wastewater treatment plant project. "This is a big deal today."
The commission followed the recommendation of Burgess & Niple engineer Bob Schreiner who said the lowest best contract was a combination of a general contract bid (without electrical) by Kirk Bros. Inc. of Alvada for $2,273,000 and an electrical bid by Enertech Electricalof Lowellville for $447,400 for a total project cost of $2,720,400.
According to Schreiner, the $3.3 million estimate by the engineering firm includes a 10 percent contingency so the estimate wasn't too far off from the bids received. He said his firm has worked with both companies on recent projects and they'll do a good job.
Companies had the option of submitting bids for electrical alone, general alone or a complete contract encompassing both general and electrical.
Kirk Bros. also submitted the lowest bid for the complete project, for $2,767,000, but that option cost more than combining the low bidders for the general without electrical and the separate electrical.
Other single bids for electrical included: Abbott Electric of Canton, $475,446; Zenith of Bedford Heights, $560,589; and Joe Dickey Electric of North Lima, $482,200. Other bids for the general contract alone (without electrical) included: A.P. O'Horo of Youngstown, $2,442,360; Cold Harbor Bldg Company of Chardon, $3,097,000; and Jack Gibson Construction of Warren, $2,369,000. Other bids for the complete project included: A.P. O'Horo of Youngstown, $2,925,430; ABC Piping Co. of Brooklyn Heights, $3,413,000; and Jack Gibson Construction of Warren, $2,875,000.
Schreiner said the only bid anomaly dealt with the Cold Harbor Bldg Company, which miswrote one of their numbers.
In light of how the bids came in, he said the commission may want to consider a possible change order to put in a monorail and hoist in one building and additional sensors in the clarifiers. He said a proposal could be put together in the next month to estimate the cost.
Goll said he knows they can't require it, but he asked Schreiner if these companies understand the commission's desire to have local workers on the job and Schreiner said they can ask.
"We're about to spend an awful lot of customers' money here. I hope it filters back," he said.
Goll spoke at length about a few points he wanted to make, starting with congratulating the utilities department staff on the work put into the project, which he said was another example of how well the citizens are served by the staff.
He also said "we can't forget why we're doing this," noting how the city was told in 2000 by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency about the phosphorous discharge limits and how they needed to be reduced and how the last 13 years had been spent building up the wastewater reserve fund and working with local companies to reduce the phosphorous levels.
He said if the commission had just passed the problem onto local industry, the city could have lost 500 jobs from a major employer which has agreed to pretreat what's being discharged into the system. The city also would have had a more costly upgrade.
Goll made a point of saying the reserve fund was built up for the purpose of the upgrade, noting that there's a possibility of second and third phases in the next four to six to eight years. The wastewater reserve fund has about $14 million in it.
He said the Utilities Committee of city council may want to look at reducing the sewer rates, noting that city council controls the sewer rates. The last time the plant was expanded to bring in Carriage Hill, now known as Fresh Mark, the city had to borrow money and after the loan was paid off, the sewer rates were reduced.
Utilities Commission Chairman Bob Hodgson offered thanks to Burgess & Niple for their work and the utilities department staff for looking after business. He agreed it would be prudent to look at the rate structure.
He also said the commission appreciated the role Fresh Mark has played and the way the company has stepped out and helped the city, referring to the pre-treatment of waste being discharged by the company.
In other business, the commission agreed to allow the fire department's request to install a 21-foot fiberglass antenna on the Roosevelt water tower to improve their radio communications. City Service/Safety Director Ken Kenst said Staley Technologies of Canton will do the work at a cost of $2,530 which will come out of the fire department budget.
Utilities Assistant Superintendent Matt Hoopes had expressed reservations about the use of fiberglass because it can break and cause damage, but he said there's no other material that can be used. He said he would let public safety trump his concern, but with the stipulation that the antenna be inspected once a year for wear.
The commission also learned some work needs done on the city's number one water well because the motor burned out on the pump. Utilities Superintendent Don Weingart said they'll need to pull the pump to repair or replace the motor and the bowl assembly. They'll also check to see if the outside casing and the screen are still intact and clean it. He expects the repairs to cost up to $3,500, but said the commission could be looking at a lot more money if the well has to be redrilled and the casing replaced. He estimated he'll know more possibly next month.
The next meeting of the Utilities Commission will be 3 p.m. July 9 in the second floor conference room of the utilities department.