Bids for sewer project on target, but costs remain high
Homeowners within the Governor Francis Farms III sewer project got some good news Thursday when bids for the work were lower than engineering projections. And then there was the disappointing news – you might say bad news – that the authority is still forecasting assessments of $19,000 to $20,000 per household.
The Warwick Sewer Authority received four bids for the work ranging from a high of $7.59 million of J. H. Lynch & Sons to the lowest bid of $4.99 of C. B. Utility.
Janine Burke-Wells, WSA director, said her staff is reviewing the bids and expects to have a recommendation to the authority board for their meeting this Thursday.
Assuming the authority makes an award, Burke-Wells estimated it would be another month before the paperwork is finalized. Construction could start before the end of the year; the project is projected to take 18 months to complete.
Burke-Wells points out that the low bid is more than $300,000 less that the engineer’s estimate and $200,000 less than the second lowest bid of D’Ambra Construction.
Nonetheless, it doesn’t do much to shave off projected assessments for the 270 property owners who will gain access to sewers.
“My job is to figure how to make that [assessments] lower if we can,” Burke-Wells said. She said she would follow up on any grants that might apply to the project.
Unlike the first two Governor Francis Farms sewer projects where a linear foot assessment was used, assessments on this project are expected to be on a unit basis. The unit form of assessment where the total cost of the project is equally divided by the number of dwelling units or housing lots served – there are adjustments for multi-family dwellings and commercial users – is part of proposed changes in regulations. A draft of those regulations is to also be considered at the Thursday meeting and, after possible revision by the authority, will be posted prior to a public hearing to be announced, Burke-Wells said.
Under the linear footage assessment system, Governor Francis Farms I property owners were charged $52 a foot, meaning a property owner with a 100-foot lot faced a $5,200 assessment. Phase II of Governor Francis Farm property owners were faced with an $82-a-foot assessment. That method of assessment was considered inequitable since whether a property owner had 50 feet of frontage on sewers or 200, they were both a single service.
Even so, the linear foot method at the $82 rate is a bargain over what is shaping up to be unit costs not only for Governor Francis but also five other sewer projects to be addressed with a $33 million revenue bond approved by the City Council. Assessments as high as $25,000 are being discussed for the largest of those projects – Bayside – that includes the neighborhoods of Riverview, Longmeadow and Highland Beach.
Several factors have played into the escalating cost of sewer assessments. For starters, federal assistance programs once available in the ’60s and ’70s are no longer available. Second, for an extended period, the authority did not adjust linear foot charges to accurately reflect the cost of sewers and, finally, the overall cost of sewers have increased. In Bayside, costs are also being affected by the presence of Native American archeological features that have required the authority to redesign the project. In place of trenching the sewer lines, contractors will be using directional drilling.
Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur, who made extending sewers to Bayside a goal should he be elected, advocates that the cost of repaving roads following sewer construction should be borne by the city and not included in the assessment.
A breakdown of the C. B. Utility bid indicates $1.2 million for bituminous patch and permanent pavement overlay for 24 percent of the overall cost of the project. Removing this from the assessment could mean close of a $5,000 reduction in assessments.