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Sewer concerns in Hartselle
2 councilmen question firm’s estimates, fees

By Deangelo McDaniel · 340-2469

HARTSELLE — The cost of getting sewer service to city-owned property east of Interstate 65 will be at least $26,000 over budget.

This has two City Council members raising questions about the engineering firm that prepared estimates because the overruns appear to be engineering fees.

“I’m just not too happy with them,” Councilman Mark Mizell said about Municipal Consultants, the Birmingham-based engineering firm whose estimate of the project was much lower than actual bids.

Despite expressing displeasure, Mizell and Councilman Bill Drake voted with a unanimous council Tuesday night to allow Mayor Dwight Tankersley to sign a revised contract with Hartselle Utilities for the project.

Here’s the concern Mizell and Drake expressed:

William Shepherd of Municipal Consultants told the council about nine months ago the project would cost between $500,000 and $1 million. The low bid came back at $1.6 million.

Hartselle opted to reject the bid and employ a seldom-used provision in the public works bid law that allows municipalities to administer the project through what’s called a forced account.

With this move, the project was estimated to cost $552,914. Now, the project is estimated at about $584,000.

“At some point, you got to draw the line,” Mizell said.

“This will be close to the estimates,” Tankersley said. “The engineering cost is what’s hard to estimate.”

Mizell suggested that HU pay the overruns because the utilities will benefit from water, gas and sewer customers.

“We will get sales taxes,” Council President Kenny Thompson responded.

Drake questioned the mayor about putting a monetary cap on the project.

Tankersley said HU General Manager Ferrell Vest has indicated that he will help the city keep the project close to budget.

Mizell said the engineering firm should bear some of the financial responsibility because the company missed the bid “so bad.”

“Do I completely trust them?” Mizell asked. “No. We’re letting Hartselle Utilities pick who they want, but I’m about ready to cap this somewhere about $610,000.”

Thompson said the city has no choice about doing this project because it owns 18.8 acres east of I-65.

About 15 months 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.

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