Permit application

County Commissioner Lenny Eliason signs the cover sheets of plans that will be submitted to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency for a permit to install the Route 50 sanitary sewer project. Looking on was clerk JoAnn Rockhold.

The saga of the Route 50 sewer project continued Thursday as the Athens County Commissioners considered options for rebidding the construction portion of the project, or abandoning it.

Through a lengthy discussion, the Commissioners decided to accept a recommendation to rebid the project as three smaller pieces, as well as potentially nixing some of the areas included.

Kyle Schwieterman, project engineer, provided the commissioners with an update on the project’s feasibility. He recommended dropping 100 of the 1,290 customers included in the project to reduce the overall cost. The areas he recommended dropping include Nurad Road, with nine users; Glen Road, with 10; Beachwood Estates, with 29; the Beechwood/Ervin Road area, with five users; Edgewood Lane, with 16; and Whitland Lane, with 31 users.

“These are the most inefficient areas when looking at a construction cost per user,” Schwieterman explained.

The project, when completed, will provide sanitary sewers to the housing subdivisions along Route 50W and to some other nearby areas that are currently served by septic tanks. It is considered an environmental project, dating back to the mid-19050’s when the Ohio EPA notified the county of environmental concerns surrounding the septic tank systems used in the area.

When the new project is completed, the sewage would be treated by the city of Athens, and broadband fiber cable will be laid to provide connectivity for residents in the same area. Intelliwave has been working on the fiber cable portion of the project.

The overall project is expected to cost $34.5 million, rising from an initial $28.6 million.

In April 2019, the commissioners continued discussing the project and aimed at putting it out to bid by May or June. Funding was discussed: The USDA agreed to provide $14.3 million in grant funds and a 40-year, $14.5 million loan at 2 percent interest toward the overall project cost. Construction of the sewer extension is expected to cost $26.6 million, after the overall project cost jumped nearly $6 million in 2019.

To help the bid process be successful, the commissioners accepted these recommendations from Schwieterman:

  • Increase the bid duration from 4 to 6 weeks, allowing more time for quotes to be submitted
  • Lower the requirements for backfill on township roads so “native, non-granular” backfill can be substituted for shipped granular fill.
  • Create alternate bid items for technical components such as manhole/wet-well coatings and modify specifications for other components, allowing for less expensive options.

The main reasons contractors had not bid on the first round was due to the construction time period, the scope of the project, the bid duration being too short for accurate bids to be submitted, and companies bidding over the 10 percent price estimate allowed as to conceal their costs to competitors.

Under the plans in place as of last week, users in the sewer district would pay no property tax assessments but would have to pay a monthly “user fee” for the service, estimated at around $68 monthly. However, if the project cost continues to rise, that may hike the expected cost to users.

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