By giving construction companies a few extra months, Columbia Water and Light could be saving $367,000 on a new water main.
After drawing up plans for the installation of a 36-inch water main from the McBaine Water Treatment Plant in Columbia to Scott Boulevard, Water and Light received estimates in December from construction companies that were much higher than expected.
“We rejected all of them,” said Dan Dasho, Water and Light director. “We worked with engineers to determine alternatives to bring the cost down.”
Now, after a re-evaluation of the project and a second round of bids, Dasho said the department found a more acceptable offer to install the water main.
The most significant change the department made in re-evaluating the project was in the timing. Dasho said they have decided to wait until the fall for construction, instead of rushing to complete the project this spring.
This effort was successful. The current bid of $6.6 million from Emery Sapp & Sons is $367,000 less than the original bid because the company has more time to complete the project.
With the lower bid that Emery Sapp & Sons has offered, Water and Light is requesting that the city hire the company to do the construction. The City Council heard this suggestion at its April 17 meeting and will vote on the decision Monday.
“It’s about the reliability of water service to the city,” Dasho said.
The additional water main will accommodate the McBain Water Treatment Plant’s expansion, which was approved by voters in November 2003 as part of the Water System Improvement Bond. Dasho said the updated plant will produce more water than the current water main can handle, so an additional main will facilitate full use of the plant’s resources. Currently, the main can only distribute 28 million gallons per day. The new plant will be able to filter 32 million.
Ed Fisher, chief operator of the plant, said the expansion is right on track, as there have been no major complications in its construction, which began in March 2005.
“We are pretty much on schedule,” Fisher said.
He said the plant’s construction should be mostly finished by May 20, with only a few “odds and ends” left to be completed after that.
The treatment plant expansion should allay concerns from last year, when the city was distributing close to 24 million gallons of water each day.
“We were approaching our limit,” Dasho said.
Once the need was established, the water main construction became a mere money matter. In brainstorming, Dasho said his department considered using plastic instead of concrete for the parts of the pipe that go under Perche and Hinkson creeks.
Although plastic would be cheaper, Dasho said he had concerns about its durability. He said he plans for the new water main to have a 50-year life span, and he would feel more comfortable sticking with the familiar concrete.
“We decided to go with what we had confidence in,” Dasho said. “No one in the country has over 20 years experience with the lower-cost (plastic) pipe.”
After such discussions, Water and Light recently finalized its plans and then received four bids for construction. The Water and Light advisory board determined that Emery Sapp & Sons was the best offer.Dasho said most of the funding for the main’s construction would come from the bond issue, while the rest would come from other revenue.
Dasho said he expects the council to approve the hiring of the construction company at Monday’s meeting but that he will have to wait and see.
“I never guess what the City Council will do,” he said.