City adds options to hit trail project budget


HUNTINGBURG — The engineers and designers of the Fourth Street Heritage Trail project are hopeful that this time around, the city will get more competitive bids that are in line with the project’s cost estimate.

They talked to business and property owners Wednesday evening about what changes were made in the bid packet from February’s bid opening.

Mayor Denny Spinner assured the 30 people at the meeting that the redesign of Fourth Street between Geiger and Jackson streets will be done. “The city is just as committed to this project as it was four years ago,” he said.

Plans call for the street having a driving lane and sidewalk; a lane situated between the two would be used optionally as a walking lane, parking area or space for outdoor uses by a business, like seating. Trees and planters would be placed in what is now the parking lane, leaving about three parking spaces in between the planters. Businesses would have the option of using part of the sidewalk or the parking lane in front of their business for enhancements like seating.

The design incorporates part of the Heritage Trail, which is a walking and bicycle path that will ultimately connect the north and south ends of the city.

When the city received two bids for the project in February, the base bids were $3.9 million and $4.2 million, both more than the project’s maximum estimate of $3.5 million. Those bids were rejected and engineers went back to work to hopefully bring the project’s cost down to the estimate. The project is part of the Stellar Community designation, and funds from that program will cover the cost.

Ron Taylor of Indianapolis-based Taylor Siefker Williams Design Group, led most of Wednesday’s meeting. He explained that the engineers and designers did research to get an idea of why the bids came in high. They also talked to construction companies and other communities that recently went through the bidding process.

“There was no magic bullet,” Taylor said. “We felt we had a $3.2 million project. The market said we have a $3.982 million project. So have to deal with the $750,000 difference.”

Some of the insight collected from the discussions and research showed that there was a trend of higher bid prices during the period this project was put out for bids. Also, certain materials required in the bid may have been more costly than others that could have been used. Costs for shipping specific items for the project could have also contributed to the higher price, as well as the project’s tight schedule, Taylor explained.

In the February bid, the contractor would have started working immediately and would have been required to be done before November’s Christmas Stroll. “So that was part of what drove the price up,” Taylor said.

Therefore, more options have been incorporated into the current bid package; bids will be opened in early October. Some of those changes include requesting unit-price bids instead of just lump sum bids, reusing the streetlights currently on the street, and looking at drainage alternatives for planting areas

The current bid package includes more alternate bids that would use different materials for part of the project. “There will be a base bid,,” Taylor said, “and then we will have some areas where different materials can be used.”

For instance, he explained, there will be a base bid for a decorative paver for the driving lane, but there will be alternative bids for an asphalt paver and for a paver with a stone base.

Also, the construction period is longer. In the last bid, construction was to start immediately after the February bid and finished before November. In this package, construction would start Jan. 1, 2019, and work would be completed in the spring of 2020.

Nick Jahn of Indianapolis-based VS Engineering assured everyone that the contractor will have to stop work so that it does not interfere with the 2019 Christmas Stroll. The company will be required to stop prior to the mid-November festival and complete a punch list of items to make sure the street is available and usable for the event, he said. Work would continue after the festival is done.

The main objectives of the project will not be compromised, Taylor said. Those include enhancing the usable space along the street, providing flexibility in using the street and right of way, enhancing the street’s character, making stormwater improvements on the street and preserving the functionality of the street.

John Songer, who owns Gaslight, was glad to get the update.

“Things happen,” he said. “There will be hiccups. But I know that when it’s done, this is going to be amazing.”

He believes the improvements will attract more businesses to fill up the open spaces along the street.

“No one likes seeing empty storefronts,” he said.

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