ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Grudgingly, the Hillsboro City Council decided Tuesday that saving $106,500 was worth an additional six weeks of inconvenience for the city’s downtown business district.
After inspecting bids from three area contractors, the council voted unanimously in special meeting to accept a Sept. 5 end date for the Main Street renovation project rather than the July 25 end date originally proposed.
APAC-Kansas of Wichita was awarded the contract with a bid of $697,437, which was slightly below the preliminary estimate of City Engineer Bob Previtera.
Council members didn’t have many options in regard to the early end date. All bidders were invited to submit bids for both end dates, but only one, Ritchie Paving, bothered to do so.
The Manhattan-based company added $21,000 to its base bid of $782,934. Accepting that bid would have meant paying about $106,500 more for the earlier deadline than APAC had bid for the Sept. 5 deadline.
The third company, Cornejo & Sons of Wichita, submitted a bid of $864,184 with a Sept. 5 end date.
After Previtera presented the bids, the council focused on three primary concerns: the additional hardship for downtown businesses with an extended deadline, the impact on the Marion County Fair parade scheduled for early August, and whether the contractor could be held to the Sept. 5 date to protect the Hillsboro Arts & Crafts Fair scheduled for Sept. 20.
On the first issue, Previtera acknowledged the inconvenience for merchants, but said Main Street will be accessible to some degree during the project because the project will be done in stages, and on only one side of the street at a time.
Regarding the fair parade, Mayor Delores Dalke said she had discussed with the fair board the possibility of re-routing the parade this year. The board was “more than willing” to consider a new route and had already identified D Street, from the Methodist church to the fairgrounds, as an inviting alternative, she said.
The council seemed most concerned with protecting the Arts & Crafts Fair, which uses Main and Grand streets as the “show room” for 400 exhibitors and 50,000 visitors.
“Everywhere you go, Hillsboro is known for its Arts & Crafts Fair,” Councilor Matt Hiebert said.
City Administrator Steven Garrett said he and others have been “emphatic” with potential contractors about the Sept. 5 end date. At the same time, some factors are out of everyone’s control, particularly weather conditions.
APAC-Kansas is the same company that did the South Washington renovation project, which required a deadline extension before the project was finally completed this fall.
Garrett said that street project was delayed for a number of reasons that were unique to that situation.
Dalke said when APAC-Kansas was known as Shears Construction, the company had gone out of its way to accommodate special events while they rebuilt Ash Street during the 1980s.
“Unless they’ve changed who they are (when the company was renamed), I don’t think we’ll have any problems,” she said.
Added Previtera: “We’re not going to do the work, but we’re going to keep it coordinated.”
With those assurances, Councilor Byron McCarty recommended the council accept the APAC-Kansas bid; Hiebert seconded the motion, which passed 4-0 with affirmative votes from council members Leonard Coryea and Shelby Dirks.
With the issue settled, Garrett said the decision had been difficult, but the council had “saved the pain and agony of everyone who will follow you (as council members) from having to do this for the next 50 years.”
Previtera said construction probably would begin in mid-April.
“Realistically, it’s going to be three weeks before you see any action,” he said.
In other matters, the council:
heard from Previtera that work has begun on the airport lighting project. He said the airport will be open for daylight use during weekends, but will be closed on weekdays until the project is completed around May 1.
Ninety percent of the $70,000 project is funded through government grant money. The city will pick up the remaining 10 percent.
took no public action following an executive session about acquisition of property.
approved the purchase of a forklift for the water treatment plant at a cost of $5,250.
accepted a bid at a special meeting Friday from the Insurance Center in Hillsboro to cover city insurance liabilities. The bid was $48,591.