As expected, the Helper City Council on Thursday awarded the contract for the first phase of its infrastructure rebuild to low bidder Condie Construction of Springville. Unexpectedly, however, the council served notice that there will be change orders on the job to trim hundreds of thousands of dollars from the cost.
Condie's bid of close to $4.8 million was the lowest, but design engineers advised the council that the master plan called for Area One improvement to be $3.5 million. Eric Franson of Franson Civil Engineers said that if the cost difference were to extend to all seven reconstruction areas, the city would have to find millions of dollars more than the $19.5 million it has raised in grants, loans and self-generated funds.
"We designed a nice, top of the line, full-blown Cadillac," explained Franson, by way of comparison. However, it looks like some of the features in the original design will have to be modified to match the realities of Helper's finances. "I think we're loaned out," stated council member Gary Harwood, meaning that the $12.5 million the city is borrowing from the Permanent Community Impact Board is the limit of its bonding capacity.
Harwood's colleague Chris Pugliese agreed. "We'll have to sit down with you guys," he told Franson, and work on some revisions. Franson said there may be 15 to 20 items that could be adjusted without jeopardizing the overall integrity of the system.
The engineer told council members that the plans contain multiple redundancies for added security. The extras include such things as three main access points to the sewer main, so that if one was blocked or damaged the other two could keep it working. Perhaps two would be enough. There's also a plan for 9,000 linear feet of curb and gutter on the drawing board, but only 3,000 feet are deemed critical for flood control.
Then, too, the plans have called for running the water and sewer lines through alleys. However, the city has vacated many of those alleyways. While it maintains a utility easement, access would be complicated because of development that has taken place over the years.
Area One, which is downtown Helper east of US-6 except for Main Street, was expected to be the toughest phase of the city-wide project. This is where problems with sewer and flooding have been most noticeable, and it is also the backbone of the sewer system's access to the Price River Water Improvement District's wastewater system.
The next bid opening is for Area Four, the neighborhood around Helper Junior High School west of the highway, on March 21.