Union-Rome sewer project hits another snag

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 3, 2007

The long-awaited Union-Rome Sewer District expansion project is in limbo again.

This time it’s because one of the unsuccessful bidders has filed a protest.

On Thursday, Douglas Cade, of E.L. Robinson Engineering, presented the Lawrence County Commissioners with the sewer project’s bids that were opened last week. He also gave them a formal bid protest by McDaniel Electric, which will now be sent to Lawrence County Prosecutor’s J.B. Collier’s office and will need to be resolved before the federally mandated sewer expansion can begin.

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Two companies placed bids for all five contracts — general construction, electrical construction, HVAC construction, plumbing construction and instrumentation and control construction.

Shook Construction of Dayton had the apparent low bid of $23,823,000 followed by Smith Contractors of Lawrenceburg, Ky., which put in a bid of $23,882,006.

Two Huntington, W.Va., companies submitted bids for just the electrical work on the project. McDaniel Electric’s bid was $3,247,000 and Jordan Smith Electric’s bid was $3,595,400.

The county prosecutor will have to answer the bid protest by McDaniel before the sewer project can go forward.

“Does that mean we are in limbo?” Lawrence County Commissioner Jason Stephens asked.

“You can’t take action on these bids until then,” Cade explained.

It is not known how long it will take to resolve the protest.

This is the just the latest in a series of stumbling blocks for the project. The contracts came in a total of $4 million over estimates in April and then were re-bid last month.

The sewer district is expanding its existing plant to handle more sewage and comply with Environmental Protection Agency requirements. The current plant can handle a little more than one million gallons of sewage a day and, according to officials, the facility is near or at capacity almost daily.

During an inspection by the Environmental Protection Agency two years ago, the system was found to have an inadequate process of removing ammonia from its sewage discharge — a problem in the district that still exists.

The ammonia is deadly to species such as flathead minnows and water fleas that live in local waterways.

Money for the project is coming from loans from the EPA. State and federal funds are still being pursued. Sewer rates were also raised last year in an effort to offset the cost of construction.