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Potts Ditch bids much lower than expected

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GREENFIELD — The cost to reroute Potts Ditch through downtown Greenfield may not be as high as what city officials have been thinking.

The Greenfield Board of Works Tuesday opened bids from five companies vying for the construction contract.

Bids ranged from $6.8 million to $8.3 million. While that’s less than the projected $10 million total cost of the project, Greenfield utility director Mike Fruth said he has yet to calculate all of the other related costs of the project before determining its total cost.

“We could be $1 million less (than the $10 million estimate),” Fruth said.

Fruth will be analyzing how much it costs to purchase land for the project, as well as engineering and inspection costs.

The timing is right: The Greenfield City Council is scheduled to meet tonight to give final approval on an ordinance that would allow the city to borrow up to $11.5 million for the project. The council could decide to borrow less.

Council members Mitch Pendlum and John Patton were at the Tuesday board meeting and said afterward they would be in favor of taking out a smaller bond if possible.

“I figured less than $10 million when they first started, but not $6 to $7 million,” Pendlum said. “It’s a good deal for the city.”

Both said they will wait to hear from Fruth and utility consultant Buzz Krohn on a recommendation on how much to borrow,

but their initial reaction to the bids Tuesday was optimistic.

“It’s a good time to be doing construction,” Patton said. “The economy has been bad; labor and materials are cheaper.”

Potts Ditch is a watershed that runs through the city and becomes an underground tunnel when it reaches the downtown district. An undersized box and aging infrastructure have caused Potts Ditch to flood several streets and homes in the area during heavy rain. While it’s been a problem for decades, city officials have been seeking how to solve the problem for the past few years.

Plans call for a new path to reroute the ditch. A new, larger culvert box will be installed, and several downtown streets will be cut and repaved to make way for the project over the next year and a half. Greenfield Utilities customers are already paying a higher monthly rate to help pay for the project, and the city’s Tax Increment Finance fund will also be tapped.

Last month, city officials agreed to buy five homes along Fourth Street for a total of $265,000 to be demolished for the project. Tuesday, the board also agreed to offer the owners of the insurance building and hair salon at 218 N. State St. $140,000 to raze that building as well.

The cost to acquire and demolish the buildings, along with engineering and inspection fees, will be added to the construction cost for a total dollar figure, Fruth said. City officials will also want to pencil in a 10 percent contingency budget, should something go wrong in construction, Fruth added. He plans to bring figures to the city council tonight to help them decide how much the city should borrow for the project.

“I’ve got a lot of numbers to look at,” he said. 

Another idea, Fruth said, would be to add on to the project. A second phase of the relocation plan would be to evaluate the channel upstream to make sure it’s flowing properly.

The lowest bid Tuesday came from Renascent Inc. at $6,783,339. Beaty Construction, Crider and Crider, Milestone Contractors and F.A. Wilhelm Construction also submitted bids.

“I’m glad the bids are where they’re at so other issues that come forth (with the project) we don’t have to worry,” said Mayor Chuck Fewell.

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