Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

December 5, 2013

Souza questions downtown, Northwest Connector

Downtown bids to be opened Dec. 18

By Heather Mullinix
Assistant editor

CROSSVILLE — The Crossville City Council will have a better idea of what the downtown project will cost Dec. 18 when bids on the infrastructure improvement and beautification project are opened. However, one councilman is concerned on moving forward with the project and the Northwest Connector road project due to the costs of the projects.

Councilman Pete Souza said, "I have a problem with all these major projects coming at one time."

"The Northwest Connector wasn't considered before. We've got millions of dollars at the same time. Until such a time as I know where that's going, I'm not necessarily for this [downtown] any more," Souza said.

Currently under construction by the Tennessee Department of Transportation is section one of the three section road artery to the north and west of Crossville. When completed, the full three sections would stretch from Sparta Hwy. at Tennessee Ave. across Hwy. 70 to Northside Drive and then across Hwy. 127 N. along Interstate Dr. to Genesis Rd. The city previously signed an agreement with TDOT, agreeing to pay for engineering and right of way acquisition and TDOT funding the road construction. The city's agreement with TDOT shares costs of the project at approximately 80-20 percent. The city needs to pay for engineering and acquire right of way for section two, while right of way acquisition and utility relocation is required for section three.

City Manager David Rutherford said, "You've been sitting on projects for a while and now they're all coming to a head."

Souza suggested putting off the Northwest Connector for two years, until after the downtown project was completed. Councilman Danny Wyatt said that, if they waited on the road project, TDOT would not offer such a generous cost-sharing arrangement. The best communities were able to get at this time was a 50-50 split of road construction costs. Rutherford warned a 50-50 split might be overly optimistic.

Souza said, "Before, I fought for this project [downtown]. I fought harder out of the stall than anybody. But then I got blindsided by this other thing at the same time. It's like everything is on the Black Friday sale and we want to buy it all at the same time. Can the city afford it?"

The city has invested $1 million into the downtown project already, and the total project is estimated at $10.2 million, including construction, contingency, administration and other costs. But the city has secured grant funding totaling about $4.2 million. Downtown Crossville, Inc., has committed to raising $500,000 for the project, though those funds are not yet raised.

Other funding for the project includes $1 million from Economic Development Administration; $1.06 million from the Transportation Enhancement Program; $567,000 state revolving fund; $317,380 from Appalachian Regional Commission; $584,000 in TDOT Surface Transportation Program funds; and $210,000 in TDOT paving funds.

The council had previously discussed holding a referendum on the project, but waiting to hold a referendum would mean the city would lose out on about $2.5 million in grant funding.

Wyatt asked Rutherford to prepare cost projections on both the downtown project and Northwest Connector and possible tax revenues that would be needed. Rutherford said he didn't know if it was necessary to discuss possible tax increases because he believed significant savings could be found in several operations areas of the city government, something he intended to discuss with the council during budget discussions next spring.

"There are things we need to look at," Rutherford said.

But when it comes to the downtown project, time is not a luxury the council has. Bids will be opened Dec. 18 and construction should start in February.

"The bid opening will answer a lot of questions," Rutherford said.

There were seven general contractors in attendance at a mandatory pre-bid conference Monday. Those were Southern Constructors, Rogers Group, Highways Inc.; Sain Construction, Thomas Brothers, McKinnon Construction and Environmental Safety and Health, Inc. Only those attending the session will be able to bid on the project as a general contractor. Others in attendance included interested subcontractors.

Contractors questioned project managers from EG&G Consultants about coordinating timing of paving of the roadway and other concerns.

The project also includes stamped concrete crosswalks. These may be poured prior to final paving of the roadway, which will be done by the Tennessee Department of Transportation. Contractors were concerned if they poured those crosswalks prior to the paving, if they would be responsible if there was damage.

There were also questions of rerouting traffic during the construction process, especially truck traffic, and the contractor's responsibility for maintaining accessibility to the area.

"We want to keep as many trucks off Main St. as possible," said Rutherford. He noted that, during the construction stage, many would use the alternate route of Miller Ave., as it would likely be quickest. Afterward, the city would need to consider better signage to make the alternate route.

"The contractor has to maintain one lane of traffic at all times," said Paul Roszak, project manager with EG&G.

James Golias II, project manager with EG&G, added contractors were told they would not be allowed to move from one section of construction to another until work was substantially complete.

"We made it clear they can't shut down Main St.," Golias said.

There will also be an on-site inspector whenever construction work is going on. The budget includes 40 hours per week to pay that engineer, but should the contractor want to work beyond 40 hours a week, they are responsible for the extra cost.

Souza noted it was important that the inspector be responsible to EG&G, as the company will be contracting with a local company for that service, but he was also concerned about the amount budgeted for inspections and construction administration.

"I'm not comfortable with a floating fee," he said.

Golias explained the fee was an hour fee, and the budgeted number was an estimate. But the total amount could change depending on how smoothly construction progressed. However, the company would itemize how much was billed for inspection services on invoices and the funds would be monitored closely.

Councilmen questioned the contingency funds budgeted and possible change orders. Wyatt questioned the possibility of contaminated soil and underground storage tanks that might be discovered during the construction process.

"On a project like this, you're going to run into something," said Golias. "We've built in money for that, and we hope that it's more than enough."

Golias also noted most of the work was shallow digging, with deeper trenches for underground utilities.

"We're trying to plan as best we can, but until the shovel is in the ground, you just don't know," he said. "I feel good about where we are."

There was also preliminary soil testing done, and none of the samples showed signs of contamination.

"We're trying to keep the budget as tight as possible," Golias said.

Bids will be opened at 2 p.m. Oct. 18 at Crossville City Hall.