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Bids too high, so Urbana tries again

Wastewater treatment plant will cost millions more than earlier projections.

Plans to build a $20 million wastewater treatment plant in Urbana will be delayed after city officials decided to seek new bids for the project that is expected to cost much more than the city originally anticipated.

City council members voted recently to move forward with the project, and accepted a bid from Cincinnati-based Dugan and Meyers Construction Co. The project has been described as one of the largest in the city’s history. Several city officials have said the project is needed because the current facility on Muzzy Road is nearing its capacity, and future growth in the city will require a new wastewater plant.

Estimates from the city engineer’s office were made about two years ago and projected the cost for the new facility at about $14 million, said Chad Hall, superintendent of the wastewater treatment plant. But several factors, including higher costs for construction materials, caused bids to come in much higher.

A state law requires cities to seek new bids for a project if bids exceed 10 percent of the original estimate, said Doug Crabill, assistant to the director of administration for Urbana. But because Urbana has its own charter, city officials initially believed Urbana would be exempt from that rule. After reviewing the issue further, city administrators discovered Urbana may not be exempt, and decided to seek new bids.

The issue will not stop the project from moving forward, Hall said, but it will likely delay the start of construction by at least 30 days.

“The funding is still there,” Hall said. “It’s nothing but procedural.”

The city’s original estimate for the project cost will be updated and revised, and advertisements for new bids could be published as early as next week. New bids will be accepted again in July.

In all, the city received eight bids for the project initially, ranging from about $20 million to a high of about $22.5 million. Construction on the treatment facility was expected to begin in July, but will likely be pushed back to August or September at the latest, Hall said.

The city will likely use a loan from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s Division of Environmental and Financial Assistance to pay for the majority of the project. Sewer rates for residents will also likely increase over the next three years, beginning in January 2014. Average monthly bills could rise by about $6 each year for the next three years.

However, council members have said the facility is a necessity because the current treatment plant now often operates near its maximum capacity of about 3 million gallons of sewage a day. The new facility would be able to treat about 3.5 million gallons a day. The older facility will remain in place but will treat a smaller amount, likely about 1 million gallons per day for a total of 4.5 million gallons between the sites.

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