Paperwork snafu further delays street upgrade
The De Soto City Council received a better-than-anticipated bid for a major 83rd Street reconstruction last week, but delayed action as city staff attempted to answer questions about how the project fits into a $2.5 million bond issued to pay for it and other capital improvements.
The development left the project -- the most costly street improvement in the capital improvement plan the City Council approved last year -- without a firm starting date deep in the construction season. The reconstruction of 83rd Street from Shawnee to Ferry streets was first delayed in April when the City Council rejected design plans that provided parallel parking on sections of the improved street.
At question last week was whether the city would have to get the approval from the Kansas Attorney General's office before moving forward with the project.
That unlikely development overshadowed the good news City Engineer Mike Brungardt shared with the City Council last Thursday. The Lawrence construction firm of had the low bid for the project -- which would rebuild the street for the four-block stretch, replace storm and waste sewers, and add new sidewalks, guttering and parking options -- at $608,000 (also included is $78,000 in drainage improvements to Miller Park). That was about $40,000 less than the consultant engineer's estimate.
But Brungardt said he couldn't ask the Council to accept the bid yet. The problem was that the project far exceeded the $433,000 estimated in the city's capital improvement plan. The cost increased when it was discovered existing storm sewers were too small and deteriorated for continued use.
The original estimate was used in the documentation filed with the state when the city issued a $2.5 million general obligation bond that is to pay the street improvements listed in the capital improvement plan. The bonds are to be paid off with the 10-year, 3/4-cent sales tax De Soto voters approved in October 2001.
At last Thursday's meeting, Brungardt and City Administrator Greg Johnson said they shared the project's details with the city's bond attorney, Dottie Riley. From that conversation and others, it was their understanding that documentation reflecting the 83rd Street project's increased cost had to be re-submitted with the Kansas Attorney General and get that office's blessing.
Without that approval and the assurance bond revenue would pay for the project, Brungardt said he wasn't comfortable accepting the bid. Such an action, he said, could potentially force the city to make up the project's higher-than-originally estimated cost with general fund dollars.
On Friday, Riley told Brungardt and Johnson the city could go ahead with the project as long as the total expenditures for all street improvements in the bond didn't exceed the $1.8 million total in the original documentation.
City officials anticipated savings to offset the increase in the 83rd Street upgrade. Johnson County is expected to contribute $400,000 toward improvements slated for Lexington Avenue. The County Commission is expected to approve that spending later this month.
Johnson followed up his Friday conversation with Riley with a request to her for written responses to questions about just how much flexibility the city had with the bond. From her response, he scheduled a special City Council meeting for Thursday to approve the J.D. Johnson bid and discuss a possible restructuring of the bond language.
In a concession of the many delays to the 83rd Street project, the bid contracts called for a substantial completion date of April 1, 2004, Brungardt said.
Brungardt said Monday it was too early to talk about the project's construction schedule. The project's utility work -- replacing or moving electrical, water, gas and sewer lines -- would be done first, he said. How much actual street work could be done this year would depend on the weather and how much progress is made when asphalt plants shut down for the year sometime in November. It was possible temporary surfaces would be laid over utility work until street work resumed in the spring, he said.