Statesboro City Council this week gave its go-ahead for construction of the Phase 1 Blue Mile streetscape project, set to begin this summer, although the $3.96 million construction contract price exceeded expectations.
This phase of the planned streetscape spans about half a mile, from Tillman Road up to the Fair Road along the “Blue Mile” of South Main Street, itself a portion of U.S. Highways 25 and 301. The plan calls for sidewalk widening and some drainage improvements as well as landscaping, decorative streetlights, benches, a “pocket park” and a bus shelter for the city’s planned small-bus transit system.
The city received just two bids, one from Astra Group LLC requesting $4,292,231 and the other from McLendon Enterprises Inc. requesting $3,956,570.
In a memo to the city manager and assistant city manager, city Public Works and Engineering Director John Washington suggested that the project is subject to the pandemic to post-pandemic economic pressures now affecting the price and timing of many public works projects.
“The low bid is higher than the engineer’s cost estimate; however, there is only an 8% difference between the two bids received, so staff is confident that the bids submitted are more representative of the current construction market,” he wrote.
“Further, any delay in award of construction could result in increased costs to the project due to current supply chain and market conditions,” Washington cautioned.
His memo, which City Manager Charles Penny presented to City Council along with his recommendation to award the contract to McLendon Enterprises, was accompanied by an item-by-item table of unit prices from both bids.
The engineer’s cost estimate originally cited by city officials was $3.8 million. In response to follow-up emails from the newspaper this week, Washington stated that the engineer’s final estimate was $4.13 million.
That estimate included the cost of relocating city-owned utilities, such as water and sewer mains, but not of moving power and telecommunications lines, which the city does not own. Relocating the non-city-owned utility lines alone is estimated to cost about $1.4 million, he said.
The streetscape plan calls for power poles to be relocated exclusively to the west side of South Main Street, with power lines to be run underground to businesses on the east side of the street. Remaining poles are to be replaced with taller ones to give more clearance over landscape features.
$1/2 million over
The lower of the two construction bids was still about $500,000 more than city staff members expected, Penny told the mayor and council Tuesday.
“We’ve been in a pandemic but the construction work has not stopped, and so we’re seeing price escalation,” he said. “However, we believe that with the projects we have going forward, we can manage, and we were able to make up that half million in order to be able to cover the costs … but we also will be mindful of our projects going forward.”
On the Phase 1 streetscape project itself, staff members will be watching to make sure the city can manage the cost “and any changes that might occur” over the next 16 to 18 months, the expected length of the work, Penny said.
Washington said he now projects a start date around the end of July or the first of August.
City Council unanimously approved awarding the contract to McLendon, which is based in Vidalia.
Last August the Georgia Department of Transportation awarded Statesboro a grant of up to 70% of the total project cost, or $1,193,000, whichever was lower. But given even the original $3.8 million estimate, local officials said the city would pay well over half of the costs from Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or T-SPLOST, and city utilities revenues.
Additionally, as reported in February, the GDOT required that signs, mostly owned by businesses, on 16 parcels of land along the project route be moved out of the 100-foot highway right of way. City officials set aside some budgeted money and offered to assist property owners with the cost of relocating signs, requiring a sign company quote and a city engineering estimate.
Since then, the city has offered approximately $123,000 in sign relocation reimbursements, and the majority of offers have been accepted, Washington stated Wednesday.
He and Assistant City Manager Jason Boyles had met and identified other revenue from the 2018-referendum T-SPLOST and 2013 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or multi-purpose SPLOST, sufficient to complete the project as bid, including the non-city utility relocation, Washington said.