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Bids again come in too high for water project

| December 2, 2004 11:00 PM

By Brent Shrum Western News Reporter

For the second time, bids for the city¹s Johnson Acres sewer and water project have come in unexpectedly high, leading Libby Mayor Tony Berget to recommend delaying other planned water system improvements.

The first round of bidding for the project was held last summer, but the specifications were reworked and new bids sought after the low bid — from Noble Excavating of Libby — came in at $1.7 million, about $500,000 over estimates. City officials had hoped that relaxing some of the requirements in the bid package and postponing the project until spring would result in a significant cost savings.

At nearly $1.8 million, the new low bid — also from Noble Excavating — is even higher than the bid the firm submitted last summer. Berget attributed the cost increase to unforeseen and significant increases in the price of diesel fuel, metals and plastics.

He said he plans to recommend to the city council next week that $100,000 set aside in this year¹s budget and in next year¹s budget for water main replacements be redirected toward the Johnson Acres project. The remainder of the funding needed for the project can be obtained through a low-interest loan from the state, Berget said.

³What it will mean is for two years we won¹t be able to do a lot of the water main replacement we had planned,² he said.

Following recommendations in an engineering study of Libby¹s public water system, the city has been working toward the systematic replacement of aging mains. Problem mains under the alleys between the 500 and 400 blocks of California Avenue have already been replaced, and the 300 block was slated for next year.

The main near the Memorial Center has also been replaced between Eighth Street and Lincoln Boulevard with the section between the boulevard and Sixth Street next in line. The plan is to have two solid, reliable mains providing water to the downtown business and medical districts, Berget said.

³Water mains are out of sight, out of mind, but our engineers are telling us, ŒHey, you¹ve got $22 million in water mains you need to replace,¹² he said.

Another option the council may consider for Johnson Acres is removing the water aspect of the project and confining the scope of the work to the extension of sewer service, Berget said. His recommendation, however, will be to continue with the proposal to replace the water lines in the Johnson Acres area at the expense of planned projects elsewhere.

³We¹re continuing with water main replacement,² he said. ³It¹s just that we¹re shifting it from this project to that one.²