WATERVLIET — City commissioners moved Tuesday night to defer an earlier plan to fix long standing erosion and drainage problems along High View Street, opting instead for a temporary repair while pursuing alternative funding.
A year ago commissioners voted to allocate funds to resolve the infrastructure issues on High View, at what is commonly referred to as the Morlock property. Subsequently, the commission sought bids for the excavation and repair work.
The contractors’ bids – opened last month – envisioned different repair alternatives and timetables, at proposed costs that ranged from just over $53,000, to more than $98,000.
The city has not yet chosen a winning bid, and it now apparently won’t be doing so anytime soon. Commissioners on Tuesday adopted a recommendation from City Manager R. Tyler Dotson to “reject all bids” and instead try to roll the High View project into a federally backed project that Watervliet is planning for 2020.
Dotson noted that if the city hires a contractor now, the full payment would come from the city’s general fund which would add unwelcome stress on the fund. But if the city puts off the storm-water infrastructure project until it completes work on its ambitious Asset Management Plan, Dotson argued, it could save money via economies of scale and related efficiencies.
“The Asset Management Plan is exactly why we shouldn’t be doing this project now,” he told commissioners.
The project should instead be rolled into a wide-ranging loan the city expects to seek from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Rural Development, Dotson said. If Watervliet pursues the USDA option, he noted, total costs of the High View project could “be spread over 40 years,” which would be more attractive from a financial perspective.
The potential benefits are real, noted Commisioner Luke Strunk, even as he pointed out that the Morlock property has long been a trouble spot. “We’ve been kicking this can down the road for too long,” he said, referring to the drainage problems.
Mayor David Brinker suggested that a temporary repair – “It’s a Band-Aid, I know” he acknowledged – could be put in place while the city pursues a permanent solution.
Commissioners, including Strunk, voted unanimously to reject all the contractor bids and pursue the steps Dotson and Brinker laid out.
Also on Tuesday, after signaling opposition in prior meetings, commissioners formally voted to have the city opt out of allowing recreational marijuana sales within city limits. The move follows last year’s statewide referendum vote to OK recreational marijuana, which gives municipalities the choice of whether to allow retail sales.