Georgia Street construction

An all too familiar sight for some in downtown Louisiana. Road construction on Georgia Street is just a little behind schedule, but not over budget. Photo by Stan Schwartz

LOUISIANA—A Louisiana resident was concerned that the Georgia Street project was taking too long to complete and was probably over budget, as it impacted downtown businesses.

“The project is definitely behind, but everything except work between 7th and 4th streets will be done before winter sets in. 7th to 4th will take until next spring,” said Mayor Marvin Brown.

The project, however, is not over budget, he noted.

“The project is within budget, which totals about $4.5 million. When it was originally planned everything was to be contracted, but a number of bid elements came in too high so we elected to do those pieces with city crews,” he said. “The city crews are going to be slower because they get pulled to other efforts—such as floods, storm damage, dead trees, water main breaks, etc. If we had not used city crews we would not have been able to do near as much as we hoped.”

Brown believes the decisions on how the project is being done made the best sense in terms of financial cost to the city, its residents and its businesses. He said he also believes the city crews are doing a great job.

“Our city employees have done a fantastic job on a very complex project,” he said. “New water lines, new sanitary sewer, new storm sewer, sidewalks, curbing and paving” it all takes time to complete. “And it admittedly makes me angry when I hear unfounded criticism because someone is temporarily inconvenienced,” he added.

Kelly Henderson, Louisiana city manager, said the city was completely open with residents and businesses about what was to come.

“Because bids were higher than the engineers estimates, some of the project was pared down,” he said. “In regards to (how long the project is taking), I told the council before they voted to do the project, that once construction starts, Georgia Street will look like a third world country for three years. The waterline—which I consider the start of construction—was started in June of 2018.

“The Georgia Street Project has had its challenges,” said project engineer Michael Purol, with Poepping, Stone, Bach & Associates Inc. “This corridor has been a major thoroughfare for 200 years. This resulted in a wide array of infrastructure.”

He noted that, “Construction first started with utility relocations. This included AT&T consolidating six utility lines to a single location reducing their footprint from nearly 20 feet wide to 6 feet wide. While this was under construction, the city received bids for the first section of the project, 7th – 23rd streets on April 25, 2019. The bidding environment during this time was difficult, as many of the regions construction crews were working on flood fighting activities. To make matters worse, Hwy. 79 was closed north and south of Louisiana, and Highway 54 along with the Champ Clark Bridge was closed because of flooding in Illinois. This left 54 from Bowling Green as the only highway access to Louisiana.”

Because the first round of bids came in too high, he noted “it was decided to reject all those bids and re-bid the project in smaller packages to allow smaller contractors and crews to bid on the project. The decision was also made that the city would install the water main using city employees. Although this impacted the schedule, it allowed the project to stay on budget.”

The re-bids were received on June 13, 2019, for the storm water improvements. This contract was awarded to Mick Mehler and Sons Inc. of Silex, Mo. The project has continued to progress with additional contract awards to Martin Construction Inc. of Eolia, Mo., for additional Phase 2 and Phase 3 work. Because the project has a fixed budget, we have to maintain this budget. As material prices have sky rocketed, and the labor force, as well as, the supply chain has been impacted by COVID, the budget has been balanced by completing the water main and some of the storm water work with city workers instead of contracting this work,” Purol said.

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