Leader Blues

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

TOP STORY >> Bids taken for $11.4M water line to Cabot

By JOAN McCOY
Leader staff writer

Bids will be opened April 2 on an $11.4 million water line from Gravel Ridge to Cabot to connect the city’s water system to Central Arkansas Water, which will be the city’s supplier in the future.

The project will be funded by the savings from a rate increase about five years ago.

By order of the state, Cabot must pull out of its well field between Beebe and Lonoke by 2023. At that time CAW is supposed to supply most if not all the water used by Cabot WaterWorks customers. But the commission that runs CWW reaffirmed last week that it is still interested in the Lonoke White Water Project as a backup supply of water from Greers Ferry Lake.

However, the commission said, its still doesn’t have enough information to sign an agreement and it won’t raise customers’ water rates to help build the Lonoke White Water Project.

“This is our main priority,” commission chairman J.M. Park said of laying the water line to connect Cabot to CAW.

The Lonoke White Project has been in the works for about 15 years. The estimated construction cost is $65 million.

The commissioners said that they have already signed a contract to pay for 250,000 gallons a day from the Lonoke White Project even if they don’t need the water. But they aren’t willing to pay for four times that amount as they have been asked to do.

And the fact that Tommy Bond, engineer for that project, said a month ago that the contracts needed to be signed within 45 days and the project needed to be started by June to be eligible for the economic-stimulus money has not persuaded them.

“We’ve got a lot of analysis yet to do,” said commissioner vice chairman Gary Walker.
“We won’t do a knee jerk to secure a one percent loan,” said Bill Cypert, commission secretary and spokesman.

Cypert said he didn’t want any of the commission’s remarks to be interpreted negatively, but the commission needs more information before it can make any decisions.

The Friday commission meeting was called to pass a resolution increasing the engineering fees for the water line from Gravel Ridge by $282,000.

The original agreement with USI Consulting Engineers was signed in December 2003 and since then more features have been added.

The commission agreed to the additional charges, but told Vernon Williams, the project engineer, that they would not approve any more charges.

“After this right here, there won’t be any more,” Walker said.

Tim Joyner, CWW general manager, told the commission that 26 companies picked up bid packets for the Gravel Ridge water line.

Williams told the commission that all the indicators say the cost of the project will be less than estimated. Material prices are down and gas is cheaper, he said.

“You guys picked the perfect time to do this,” Williams said.