City could cross under I-65 cheaper if examiners OK rejecting bids, hiring low bidder
By Deangelo McDaniel
HARTSELLE — If the state Department of Examiners of Public Accounts gives its blessing, Hartselle may get sewer service to the east side of Interstate 65 for less than the City Council’s estimated cost.
A unanimous council has agreed to employ a seldom-used provision in the public works bid law that allows municipalities to reject bids, then hire the low bidder to do work at a reduced rate.
But state examiners must first sign off on Hartselle’s plan, City Attorney Larry Madison said.
If they do, the cost of the project will drop from $1.635 million to $863,427. The city’s estimated share would be $552,914.
“We have to provide the material and pay labor with a small markup,” Madison said. “The contract can’t have fixed costs.”
Morgan Contractors of Baker, Fla., submitted a low bid of $1.635 million to construct a tunnel under I-65 that would allow Hartselle to get sewer lines to city-owned property near Alabama 36.
The bid was more than $1 million above the $558,000 the council included in its budget.
Following Madison’s advice, the city rejected the bid, saying it was unreasonable and not in the interest of Hartselle to accept.
Then the council authorized Mayor Dwight Tankersley to sign a contract with the Florida-based company to construct the tunnel.
“Basically, the city is going to be the contractor for the project,” Madison said.
City and Hartselle Utilities employees will do work outside the tunnel, including hauling away excess material and installing lines to the tunnel entrance and exit.
“The mayor will not sign the contract until I sign off on it,” Madison said.
The estimated cost for the tunnel alone is $578,080. Related costs would bring the total to $863,427. HU is paying a portion of the cost because HU is running a gas and water line in the tunnel.
“This is a win-win for the city and Hartselle Utilities,” Council President Kenny Thompson said.
“This is the kind of cooperation we have been looking for from Hartselle Utilities,” added Councilman Bill Smelser.
HU General Manager Ferrell Vest said HU and the city are combining their assets to do work outside the tunnel.
“We all knew we had to reconsider how we were approaching this project if we wanted to be successful,” he said.
Because the scope of the work is changing, HU Engineer Wayne Robertson said, HU resubmitted its permit request to the Alabama Department of Transportation to bore under I-65.
“I don’t know how long it will take for them to approve it,” he said.
Although the city set no start and completion dates, Thompson said they have no choice about doing this project because the city owns 18.8 acres east of I-65.
About a year ago, Hartselle made a commitment to pay more than $2 million for the property near I-65 and Alabama 36.
The agreement with NBC Inc., a family-owned corporation, required the city to
pay $550,000 down and
$27,669 monthly for the next five years.
City leaders said developers have shied away from the property because it does not have sewer.
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