Actions taken on three projects in busy week for future progress

Blount County Commission

The Blount County Commission administration scheduled meetings on three projects this week – two bid openings and a grant planning work session – that relate to public works initiated to improve the county’s functioning into the coming decade.

2019 Community Development Block Grant

The first, on Monday, was a grant application planning/work session directed toward identifying a Community Block Grant project for 2019, to meet a grant application deadline of July 31, 2018. Several road projects have been considered over the previous weeks with a paving project for the Black Road area in District 2 emerging as the one most likely to meet grant requirements for serving low and medium income areas.

Of the two grant categories available, one is competitive with other counties, and one specifies projects that enhance quality of life “beyond providing for the most basic and essential needs,” thus perhaps lessening the prospects for selection of a road paving project for that category. Grant amounts are in the $250,000 to $350,000 range, plus matching funds. Grant application requirements are specific as to economic status documentation, requiring extensive surveys of the area to qualify.

Miller Road Bridge

The second meeting was a bid opening Tuesday morning for a project to replace Miller Road Bridge in District 2, heavily damaged in the flood of Christmas night, 2015. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds were awarded earlier this year toward the cost of replacement.

Bids announced in the meeting were as follows:

Miller and Miller Construction
Bridge Builders of Alabama
Bob Smith Construction

The bids will be evaluated on the merits by County Engineer Dustin Stewart, with the award announced in the commission special meeting on Thursday, July 26, at 8 a.m., unless otherwise indicated.

Courthouse renovation

The third meeting Tuesday afternoon was a bid opening for the next phase of the comprehensive courthouse renovation project, addressing long-delayed electrical and heating/ventilation/air conditioning (HVAC) upgrades for the courthouse. Two bids were presented to the county by Lathan Associates, the firm providing architectural and construction management services for the project. Firms bidding on the actual work were Comfort Systems USA Inc. and Stateline Mechanical LLC.

Both bids were compartmentalized according to the extent of HVAC replacement undertaken – partial or complete – for the project. Only the composite or total bid for the project is discussed here.

Each bid totaled slightly above $2.5 million for the entire project, differing by only $150,000, compared to a budget of only $1.5 million available to do the work without incurring debt.

Probate Judge/Commission Chairman Chris Green informed those in attendance that he had not expected bids to exceed the available budget by such magnitude, and that a period of time would be required for the county commission itself to consider the financial challenges and possible options available.

Green said the commission had anticipated the bid award would be made in a special commission meeting Thursday morning (July 26), but that, in light of the bids, he expected the commission would need to debate the full implications of a decision to proceed, and that such decision would probably not be forthcoming until the commission’s regular business meeting on Aug. 13.