On Thursday, Nov. 29, bids were opened for the project to upgrade the sewer line which runs along the Town Branch, from the intersection of Highway 62-412 and Main Street to the sewage treatment plant near the hospital.
Five bids were submitted ranging from the low bid of $316,126 to a high bid of $672,916.
"The low bidder is Crouse Construction out of Harrison," Tim Mays, an engineer for ESI Engineering, told the Salem City Council at its Nov. 29 meeting. "We're working with Crouse Construction on two other projects. We've been pleased with their performance, and how quickly they get in and are able to get out."
In July, Salem received final approval for a $486,000 grant that it had been pursuing for several years. The grant comes from federal money allocated to repair damage caused by Hurricane Ike in 2008, as it moved inland and turned into a storm system which caused flood damage to Salem's sewage system.
It was initially thought the sewer line, installed in 1965, would have to be totally replaced. But the Arkansas Rural Water Association ran a camera through the line this summer, and found less damage and deterioration than expected.
"Most of it was in pretty good shape," Public Works Director Bill Worsham told The News in August. "We'll just replace the portions of the line that are bad, and that will save money.
Under the bid specifications, 3,500 feet of 12-inch sewer line will be replaced, along with 21 manholes. The grant will also pay for improvements to the levee between two lagoons at the treatment plant. Work will also be done to reinforce the river bank at the cascade, the concrete structure where treated sewage is discharged into the South Fork River.
Instead of costing around $500,000, ESI Engineering's revised estimate of the project was $370,000, and the low bid was $54,000 less than that.
"It is our official recommendation to go ahead and issue notice of award to Crouse Construction," Mays said.
After the city council passed a resolution accepting the low bid, Mays said it would take the company about two weeks to obtain performance bonds, insurance and meet other requirements.
"Best case scenario would be to have a pre-construction meeting the week before Christmas," Mays said. I would imagine (they would) begin work sometime in January."
Mayor Gary Clayton said he was pleased with the bid results.
"I did not expect the low bid to be that low. That leaves $113,300 in a contingency fund," Clayton said. "That is money we should be able to use on some other projects."
Cassie Elliott, a consultant for ESI who will monitor the project, agreed grant money not needed for the sewer line repair can be used, if there are further repairs that can be traced to damage caused by Hurricane Ike flooding. In particular, the EPA is interested in stopping "inflow and infiltration" -- repairs to stop sewage from leaking from sewage lines,and repairs to stop storm runoff from getting into sewer lines during a storm, which can cause the sewer plant to be flooded.
In other city council business, Police Chief Shad Overman reported on new efforts by his department to get neglected property in the city cleaned up. The owner of a deteriorated property on Elm Street has agreed to demolish the property this month, and clean up another near by property he owns.
"If you have any area of concern (about a property) and you want me to talk to the owner, let me know," Overman told council members.
Mayor Clayton reported that sales tax receipts in October were six percent above sales tax income in October of 2011. The Mayor said city department heads are working on budgets for the new fiscal year, and he will present a proposed budget to the council to consider as the process progresses.
The Mayor said an increase in the city's water rates may be included in the new budget. Because of rising costs, Salem will likely join Fulton County Rural Water and Viola water and raise its water usage rates for next year.
Because the December council meeting falls during Christmas week, the council has moved its meeting this month to Thursday, Dec. 20, a week earlier than usual.