After several years, a parking lot in dire need of repair in the heart of Clinton will get some much-needed attention, even though the price tag is much steeper than expected.
At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, the Council unanimously approved accepting the low bid from Charles W. Hughes Construction LLC in the amount of $172,721.50. The bids for the project came in slightly higher than the projected $168,000 for construction. Including engineering, contingency and other costs, the total project budget would be approximately $198,000.
Public Works director Jeff Vreugdenhil said there were seven bids submitted for the project. He said he felt the low bid, while maybe higher than some expected, was “fair.”
“That would require the city to allocate an additional $50,000,” City manager Shawn Purvis stated. The city currently has a fund balance of approximately $4.2 million.
The design of the ACE Plaza parking lot and public space proved more difficult than anticipated because of the physical nature of the lot, whose design is “complex,” Purvis noted.
“The challenge in the project is drainage,” Vreugdenhil said simply.
The original project budget was $148,000 including a $100,000 grant from USDA received in July 2015, the maximum award for such an improvement project. In the fall 2015, city staff began working with engineers to design improvements for the lot to correct drainage problems and create an attractive public space.
“Engineers encountered difficulty in design for the parking lot primarily in attempting to correct the drainage problems,” Purvis stated.
The lot is physically flat with a near zero-percent grade, which makes drainage efforts difficult. Initial designs produced cost estimates well over budget and city staff worked with engineers to find alternate solutions to reduce the estimated cost. That pushed project bidding back from the initial February 2016 timeline.
The city accepted the parking lot as a donation from Beth Stewart in 2012. Despite offering another 40-plus spaces to the downtown parking inventory, the costly problems associated with the lot caused Council to delay accepting that donation. The lot, located between Lisbon and Wall streets, serves several businesses in the central business district and with proper repairs, could help strengthen those businesses, city officials have said.
Feelings from citizen and business owners have been that improving the lot would increase economic opportunities for adjacent businesses to expand and create new jobs for downtown Clinton. City officials feel the same way, and Mayor Lew Starling said it was important to do the project right.
“The long and the short of it is we spend a lot of money downtown. We want to do it right and we want to do it right the first time,” the mayor said. “It’s not going to get any easier or any cheaper. If we don’t do this, we’re going to have problems for the next 30 years. Prolonging this is not going to help.”
Vreugdenhil concurred, saying the project should also be good for the next 30 years. Purvis echoed those sentiments, while also explaining that should the city shelve the project, it would also lose the grant money awarded for the project.
“If the city does not continue with the project, it will lose the grant but save the city’s contribution ($48,000 to $98,000),” Purvis explained. “City Council could reject all bids and re-advertise but would run the likely risk of receiving even higher bids. The cost of the project is not likely to decrease with time and there may not be another grant opportunity.”
“I don’t like it, but I don’t think we have a choice,” said Councilman Steve Stefanovich of the prospect of paying more to overhaul the ACE lot than originally intended. “It’s a mess now.”
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