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Water projects construction set to begin

November 13, 2013
By BOB PETCHER ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Now that the first element of a construction process (pre-construction services) in stormwater and water distribution is underway and the Fort Myers Beach Town Council has authorized funds to help pay for phase one of actual construction, Town officials are eying a start date to replace an existing, yet decrepit, potable water system.

The target date for a groundbreaking ceremony and construction for the long-awaited project has been set for Monday, Dec. 2. Past mayors, council members and Lee County commissioners as well as state officials are being invited to the event that is scheduled to take place at Town Hall around 1 p.m.

Last week, Council approved a second amendment to the design build agreement between Town and Mitchell & Stark Construction Company, which was retained to do the initial waterline replacement work in areas of Laguna Shores, Bay Beach Lane and the Basin Based Neighborhood. The guaranteed maximum price for the work was set for $2,415,928.14.

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Town officials have announced that a project that will replace the town’s aging water utility system and install updated pipelines as well as storm water infrastructure needs will begin early next moth.

According to Town officials, the focus is in the Basin Based Neighborhood, which will also see an upgrade in its storm water collection system in its area from Carolina Avenue to Tropical Shores Way.

"The stormwater work will actually begin first because we have a time certain that we have to have that completed," said Town Manager Terry Stewart. "

A FEMA grant in the amount of $646,000 will help fund stormwater infrastructure. The grant is based on an April 2014 completion date.

Road resurfacing upon completion of stormwater and water work construction is not a given.

"That really depends on how much work must be done on the roads itself," said Stewart. "'The plan is not to resurface every road. There may be some partial resurfacing. There may be some sections of the road that get totally redone. It depends on the nature of the work and what we have to take around or out of the ground."

Council has already authorized $743,088.46 for the master contract design build agreement and initial phase work. Johnson Engineering is the Mitchell & Stark's consultant and will help with plans and permitting. Improvements to Lee County Utilities sanitary sewer system is also within the project scope.

According to Town records, Phase I preliminary services involves a complete right-of-way survey of the entire Phase I project area, engineering evaluation and final design within Basin Based project area, development of 60 percent design plans for the remaining Phase I area, implementation of the public awareness efforts and development of the project's guaranteed maximum price.

The design build agreement is the base document that provides the structure for the project, including the agreed upon amendment #1. Each amendment will detail specific work activities that will offer a specific scope of services and costs associated with all project services.

According to a memo from Town Public Works Director Cathie Lewis, once construction design plans are evaluated and developed, the construction contractor can then develop its construction costs, known as the GMP, an estimated cost to perform remaining aspects of the project, such as remaining engineering, public awareness and construction aspects.

Within the GMP is a built-in contingency to allow unknowns within the project -like finding hard rock formations where sand is expected, buried structures such as trees, poles and rubble- and reduce the number of change orders issued. Total Phase I improvements are estimated to total just over $4.7 million.

"The process on the potable water system has probably gone on for 8 to 12 years, going back over many different councils," said Beach Mayor Alan Mandel. "We as a Council are continuing the work of previous Councils."

Back in April 2011, the Town was approved to continue a process concerning long-term borrowing to replace its decrepit water utility system when Lee County Circuit Judge Sherra Winesett validated a 4-year-old referendum at a hearing at the Lee County Justice Center.

Beach voters originally approved the referendum back in 2007, by giving it a 91.6 percent passing rating. The validation of the referendum was approved for up to $18 million.

Simultaneous work will be done with storm water improvements and the water lines. The Basin Based area - a six-road segment- is expected to be completed within 240 days after the project begins.

Fixing the town's aging water utility system is crucial to replace asbestos-covered pipes and install updated pipelines. The upgraded system will meet current water service and fire protection standards of Beach residential areas.

Water utility maintenance evaluated

With an anticipated new system in place, Town officials are weighing a decision to operate and maintain water services administratively as a cost-savings method.

In the near future, Town officials will discuss the option of keeping its water utility management in-house versus having outside contractual arrangements. This stems from a July 2011 proposal review and cost comparison for an operations agreement with Woodard & Curran as well as an October 2012 reevaluation.

GAI Consultants reviewed the current operations contract and staff budgetary work then made recommendations. The contract with extensions expires Feb. 1, 2017.

During the initial analysis review, it was noted that Woodard & Curran contracted water utility administrative services cost the Town $454,612 for the first year.

If a change is made, Town Public Works staff would be required to obtain Florida water distribution licenses. A transitionary process was cited to be a period of three months.

According to Town records, the switch to in-house services would save the Town an estimated annual amount of $40,600 from the current contract price once the start-up costs are absorbed the first year.

Scope of work involves system maintenance and operation, water utility meter reading services, bill preparation and collection, monitoring and the maintaining of an independent office and its related services.

The potential in-house service once fully transitioned could also minimize future water rate increases through wholesale water purchases.



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