The Letcher County Water and Sewer District’s Board of Directors deliberated for some time before awarding a bid for the construction of Phase II of the Deane Water Project, including Shelby Fork and Mill Creek.
The bid was awarded to Akins Excavating of Corbin, although another firm submitted a slightly lower bid. Steve Caudill of Bell Engineering, a firm that provides engineering services to the Water and Sewer District, told the board at its December meeting December 20 that Strata Services of Pike County had the low bid of $406,034.71 when a bid opening was held December 11. Akins bid $419,355.00, while a third company, USRC Corp. or Pikeville, submitted a bid of $600,751.
Caudill told the board that although Strata had the low bid, the company’s representative who attended the opening admitted the firm had no experience in installing water lines. The representative said the Virgie-based firm had done other work for the Mountain Water District in Pike County.
Caudill also told the board Strata does not have a contract with a bonding agency approved by the U.S. Department of Treasury. He said Strata had submitted a cashier’s check in lieu of a bond, but listed Viking Bond Service of Phoenix, Arizona as its bonding agency. Viking is not on the approved list and therefore would be ineligible to bond the work involved, Caudill said.
Caudill also told the board that Strata had listed the Pike County Fiscal Court as a reference and that although court had given them a good referral, Mountain Water District confirmed that they had done no line extension work for them and attempts to reach other references given by Strata were unsuccessful. He said he felt the work at Deane and Shelby Fork was too high profile due to recent events to award to a contractor without water line extension experience and could not recommend Strata due to their lack of experience.
After some discussion, board member Richard Carter said he did not believe it would be in the District’s best interest to award the bid to Strata even though their bid was just over $13,000 lower than Akins’s bid and moved that the bid be awarded to Akins, which has a good track record of doing work for the Water and Sewer District and most recently served as contractor on the now completed Thornton Phase III Project. Akins Excavating is also the contractor on Deane Phase I and IA, the change order job that used excess funds to extend lines farther than planned in Phase I. Caudill said they did well on all three jobs and have done approximately $7.5 million to $10 million in water line projects for the District.
Caudill told members of the Water and Sewer Board they could accept any of the bids or throw them all out and solicit new ones. However, he said the two lower bids had come in about 18 percent under estimate and he doubted new bids would come in much lower.
Letcher County Attorney Jamie Hatton reminded the board it is never obligated to take the lowest bid if members do not believe that bid is in the best interest of taxpayers. Hatton said the board is free to accept what it determines to be the best bid for the project in question. The board then voted four to one to award the bid to Akins, with Board Member Billy Stamper casting the lone no vote.
The Deane Project will be paid for with funds administered through the state Department for Natural Resources’ Division of Abandoned Mine Lands (AML). The Shelby Fork/ Mill Creek Project will be paid for through funds allocated by the Kentucky General Assembly and administered through the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority (KIA).
Caudill told the board that the $150,000 allocated by the state for the line extensions in the Shelby Fork/ Mill Creek area was less than the project amount in either bid and suggested the board go ahead and get as much line installed as possible while looking for other funding to complete the project. However, Letcher County Judge/Executive Jim Ward later told The Mountain Eagle the Letcher Fiscal Court, the county’s governing body, has funds from coal severance tax receipts available to help complete the project.
County Attorney Hatton is working with property owners in the area to acquire a site for the tank and pump station for Phase II.
In other business, the board learned that all lines for Deane Phase I and IA are installed and new customers are being accepted. People in the Deane Phase I and IA area, which reaches to the mouth of Willis Branch, can sign up for service by going to the Water and Sewer District Office in Whitesburg, in the old Letcher County Health Department Building, or get needed information by calling 633-8550.
Caudill also reported that the final completion date for the water line extension contract for the Pine Creek/Pert Creek/Cram Creek Project is February 11. He said the water tank is complete with the exception of disinfecting and filling, and that Laurel Construction’s contract completion time has been suspended until lines are finished and water is available to fill the tank.
Caudill said the Kentucky River Area Development District (KRADD) is working to obtain funding through previously committed Kentucky Infrastructure Authority funds that were unused and that Bell is working with Akins Excavating to get a change order to connect the Pine Creek/Pert Creek/Cram Creek lines with lines at Thornton with the unused KIA funds.
Phase II of the Pine Creek/Pert Creek/Cram Creek Project awaits authorization from the state Division of Water authorization to proceed with bidding.
KRADD is also working with KIA to allow the Water and Sewer District to access $500,000 to extend water lines to 38 homes in the Bull Creek and Elk Creek. The homes will get water from the City of Vicco in neighboring Perry County until AML funding is available to connect the entre Bull Creek/ Elk Creek project to Letcher County sources. KRADD has also submitted a grant to the federal Appalachian Regional Commission to pay for an “interconnect” with the City of Hazard’s water system so that Hazard and Letcher County can provide water to each other in emergencies. Caudill said the Knott County Water District will construct lines along Highway 15 at Redfox in 2013, and that Bell is coordinating a second interconnect with Knott County at Garner Mountain.
Bell Engineering is also working on plans to extend Phase II of the Payne Gap Water Project with Millstone and to serve the homes between US 119 and Martha Jane Potter School.