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WM Utility gets sticker shock on project cost


Bids ‘twice as high’ as expected, says Wimbish as city takes a closer look at rehab plans

West Memphis Assistant Utilities Manager Ward Wimbish brushed off the sting of a high priced bid in May and went to work on lowering the bid price for a manhole rehabilitation project. The project bids to reduce water inflow and infiltration came in double what city utility planners anticipated. The utilities announced in its June meeting it had worked with the sole bidder and found a significant expense savings.

“We were stunned by the results,” said Wimbish in May. “The bid amounts came in twice as high as we expected.”

The project slated for the area around East Junior High would help minimize rainwater running into the sewer system. The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality put the city utility company on an improvement plan. The project aimed at improving customer service and satisfying those state requirements.

“This is part of our task and response to the ADEQ,” said Wimbish.

“We have a lot of old manholes made out of bricks that have shifted and (rain) water gets into them.”

The inflow overwhelms the waste water plant during major rain evens and has caused the treatment plant to bypass sending sewage directly into the Mississippi River.

The fix was to reline manholes to keep so much water from seeping into the sewer system.

In May utility commissioners voted to send the city utility company back to the table to re-examine the bid. Utility Manager Todd Pedersen said the effort worked well in reducing the price.

The bidders had priced each manhole at worstcase scenario, having to excavate in the street and re-pave around each one.

City engineers surveyed the work area and found many manholes in grassy areas and not in the street.

Utility General Manager Todd Pedersen reported the findings served to lower the cost by $219,000. The original bid amounted to $818,312 for manhole improvements and the revised bid returned at $599,346.

“When they originally bid it, they bid it as if they were all in the street,” said Pedersen. “So we went back and separated them.

There were only 50 manholes in the street.”

The remaining 241 manholes in the rehabilitation project were set on turf which provided about a $1,000 savings each.

“So we use one process for those in the street and another for those not in the street,” said Pedersen.

“It was worth the effort to give this a closer look. It was a diligent effort and good stewardship of our funds on behalf of our city customers.”

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