By Alex Bridges
Strasburg's Town Council put a collective foot down Monday on efforts to upgrade the wastewater treatment plant.
Council members agreed at a work session that town staff should stop spending time and resources to reduce the price of the project. Instead council supported initiatives to advertise a former request for information that may help bring down the price. Council also agreed a representative should seek help from the state's U.S. senators and congressmen because the plant upgrades come as a result of federal requirements.
Town Manager Judson Rex told the council about efforts to work with parties involved in the project to bring down the cost of the upgrade. Through more discussions with PCI, the low bidder, and other parties, Rex told council staff cut approximately $4.6 million from the estimated cost of $31.4 million. Rex also advised the 10 percent budgeted for contingencies could come down to 3 percent, but as Councilman Don Le Vine noted, the reduction would not necessarily save the town $2 million.
The town manager also advised the funding partners have agreed that, given the higher estimated cost of the project, the grant amounts could increase, thus lowering the loan debt.
But the best-case scenario still put the amount of the loans needed for the project at $22 million, or $2 million more than what council agreed the town could afford to spend.
Council agreed that staff should not continue efforts to shave off more of the cost of the project.
Council members emphatically reiterated their stance that the town cannot afford to borrow more money. At the same time, Councilwoman Sarah Mauck reminded members and staff they do not face an immediate deadline.
PCI submitted the lowest bid for the project of $31.4 million that came to approximately $11 million more than $20 million estimate provided to the town from Malcolm Pirnie. The firm's representatives have since apologized for making a mistake by not advising the town their estimate as of July increased to $37 million by the fall.
Chief Operator Jay McKinley advised council some of the cost-cutting measures mean the town likely would pay that money and then some in the future. However in some instances the reductions would not result in maintenance costs later, McKinley said.
Several council members levied harsh criticism at Malcolm Pirnie for the oversight and they complained the town already has paid the firm almost $2 million for its work on the project. Rex noted he has received no response from a letter he recently sent to the firm regarding the project costs.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org