Higher-than-expected bids for two city projects surprised the members of the Mebane city council during Monday night’s monthly meeting, but didn’t stop them from giving the go-ahead on the two projects.
One of the projects, for improvements along Clay Street, came in about $250,000 (25 percent) above the budgeted, or planned amount. But with only one company even willing to bid on the project – which was put out for bids twice – the council saw little option but to proceed, for fear that delay would only add to the costs.
Even with more than $31,000 whittled from the single contractor’s bid in negotiations with the company, the city’s expenses for underground and above ground improvements along a two-block stretch of Clay Street in the central business district were almost $235,000 more than anticipated.
“The bidding environment is tough right now,” the council was told by Mark Reich of the engineering firm Alley, Williams, Carmen, and King, which serves as the city’s engineer on the project.
Reich said he didn’t know “that we’d get any more bidders” if the city postponed the project.
Reich also concluded in his assessment to the council that “rejecting all bids and readvertising will not significantly reduce the cost.”
The city expects the work along Clay Street to be completed by June 30.
In order to minimize the impact on businesses and the general public, most of the work will be done in the evenings.
[Story on Clay Street background continues below sidebar on higher-than-expected costs for Fiddler Stage at Mebane Community Park.]
To build “Fiddler Stage” at Community Park also higher than anticipated
Bids also came in about 44 percent higher for a small stage, a so-called Fiddler Stage, at Mebane Community Park; even the low bid, of $108,000, was considerably higher than the $75,000 budgeted amount for the project.
The covered stage with removable sound barrier panels to shield nearby residents from the music or other noise is intended to serve as a venue for smaller events, including small concerts and possible movies at the park.
Seating is on the lawn in front of the stage area, the cement for which has already been poured.
The city received three bids for the project: $179,453 from Brooks General Contractors; $166,000 from Central Builders of Mebane; and $108,000 from W.C. Construction Company, LLC.
The council unanimously, 5-0, approved the selection of the low bidder.
The city hopes to have the stage built in time to host a Juneteenth celebration as the inaugural event of the stage on Saturday, June 17, 2023.
Background on Clay Street work
Water and sewer lines along Clay Street, one of the oldest portions of the city, are over 100 years old, and are in continuing need of repair, council members were told at their November meeting. They also contribute to a “sag” under the street, utilities director Kyle Smith explained at the time, inasmuch as the lines and the earth around them continue to deteriorate. That then adds to a problem with the pavement on Clay Street, as well.
The problems along Clay Street are several, and some have presented recurring difficulties, as council members heard last fall before deciding to spend about $1 million to address the layers of infrastructure issues. It’s that $1 million estimated price tag that will now be closer to $1.4 million ($1.384 million, according to the city’s latest estimates after contract awarded this week).
Previously subject to frequent repairs, city officials had been looking for a longer term solution to the road that is often described as the second main street in downtown Mebane. The key area is between Third and Fourth streets, and also including one stretch between Fourth and Fifth streets, as well as a portion of Fourth Street itself (between Clay and Center streets).
Both the streets themselves, as well as water and sewer lines under it, are 100 years old or more, according to city officials.
“Settlement” of the pavement and soil under the street have led to “voids, or “sags” developing, as described by utilities director Kyle Smith, some of which have previously been filled with a foam-like material. But some of that fill material has deteriorated, resulting in additional air space, or voids, under the streets.
In addition to filling in the voids, part of the strategy will be to “slip-line” existing stormwater and sewer lines. Rather than dig up the streets, this methodology uses what’s described as “trenchless technology” to apply a sealant – of high-density polyurethane structural resin – in existing stormwater and sewer lines, without opening the street.
The old pipes are not to be replaced, but rather the new sealant will seal any cracks to make for more efficient utility lines, providing the equivalent of new pipes within the existing pipes, Smith explained.
Assistant city manager Preston Mitchell described the process as creating new water and sewer lines from the inside.
However, it was the slip-lining of the pipes and stormwater lines that came in at about twice the estimated amounts – $97,955 higher ($216,955 vs. $119,000) for sewer lines, and $65,400 more for stormwater drainage ($112,400 vs. the estimated amount of $47,000).
Based on the original plans outlined in November, above ground, the city also plans to revise the mid-block crosswalk, both raising the crosswalk itself (something akin to a speed hump) and providing some “bump-out bulbs” in the sidewalk space, narrowing the roadway immediately adjacent to the crosswalk.
Also above ground, the city will convert some of the spaces into three additional handicapped parking spaces in the three-block area where there are now two such spaces. A total of 81 spaces exist along those streets now, and there will be that same number when the project is finished, officials said – the configuration changing from 79 regular with two handicapped to 76 regular with a total of five handicapped spaces.
A temporary water line will be used during part of the reconstruction, and because temperatures must be above 40 degrees, officials said it would late spring at the earliest they would be able to start that part of the repairs.
Once the work begins, it is estimated to take 10-15 working days to complete, according to the schedule outlined last fall, and during the temporary water line phase, affected customers will not be charged for water since their meters will not be working properly during the transition.
Additionally, fire hydrants in the area will be out of service, but the fire department has developed an alternative during the construction time frame.
And while the price tag for the repairs ran higher than anticipated, city officials were told last fall that total replacement of water and sewer lines on the two streets (Clay and Fourth) could run around $1.5 million; coupled with the street improvements above ground, however, the total price tag could reach $2 million, if the city had opted for the total replacement approach. And those estimates were based on November estimates that proved to be understated.
In addition to the higher costs for new lines, it was also noted that the trenching required to install new lines would disrupt traffic and service to businesses along Clay Street for several months, a result officials have long said they wanted to avoid.
City manager Chris Rollins emphasized in November that most of the work on the proposed project would be undertaken at night, between 9:00 p.m. and 9:00 a.m., to provide as little disruption to Clay Street businesses and traffic as possible.
The city council ultimately voted 5-0 in favor of awarding the bid for the Clay Street work to Breece Enterprises, Inc. of High Point for the negotiated amount of $761,925.
OTHER MEBANE NEWS IN THIS WEEK’S EDITION:
Revere Copper Products sets up factory in Hawfields-area industrial park: https://alamancenews.com/revere-copper-brings-production-plant-to-mebane/
City to pay for two stop lights at exit ramps at Buckhorn Road: https://alamancenews.com/mebane-agrees-to-pay-for-two-traffic-lights-at-buckhorn-road-exits/
Delay now projected for completion of Mebane Oaks Road bridge widening: https://alamancenews.com/mebane-oaks-bridge-widening-delayed/