City Council frustrated by stalled capital projects

By: By Steve Archer For The News Messenger
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Lincoln City manager Matt Brower vowed Tuesday night to put a "full-court press" on two projects which, if delayed, could cost the city nearly $1 million.

Both Well No. 2 and the Chambers Drive Gravity Sewer Project contain grant funding, which could be in jeopardy. Brower, addressing the City Council at Tuesday’s meeting, said city staff is aware of the urgency and the grant funding tied to the projects.

"Well No. 2 is a critical resource for the city," Brower said. "It is an urgent project."

Well No. 2 has been inactive for 10 years and reactivation would include test pumping, video inspection, water quality testing and the installation of a new pump, valves and pipes. Cost of the well's reactivation is $580,000 with $269,000 in grant funds provided by the Regional Water Authority.

"I'm having a bit of a palpitation here," said Lincoln Councilman Spencer Short. "Time is of the essence on (Well No. 2) and it is dragging. If there is a bottleneck, let's make a change. I don't want this project to fail."

Short called delays to the Chambers Drive Gravity Sewer Project "unacceptable." The sewer project includes $770,000 in Proposition 50 grant funds from the Regional Water Authority.

"This is our third and final extension," Short said. "If we don't finish by the end of the calendar year, we are done.”

"I've been bringing this up for two years and did not want to be in this situation," added Short. "This has been out there too long."

Councilmen Peter Gilbert and Stan Nader said they were both willing to approve extreme actions to complete the sewer project.

"It is time for us to take a different road to the get to the end of the race," Gilbert said. "If we have to put additional dollars and resources toward it, whatever it takes, let's make this work."

Nader promised Ray Leftwich, construction manager for the city's public services department, the necessary resources to make the deadline. Leftwich was handed control of the sewer project three weeks ago.

Leftwich, who most recently completed the Nelson Lane Project, said the fact that the city did not receive a single bid on the sewer project will speed the process up.

"It's the first time in the 20 years I've been doing this that I did not receive any bids," Leftwich said. "We can negotiate directly now. It will save time."

Leftwich told The News Messenger that the gravity sewer project will save the city money.

"By itself, the project will substantially reduce the city's sanitary sewer operating expenses," Leftwich said. "The high-quality pipes, made right here in Lincoln, will last more than 100 years. Everything about the project is beneficial."

Leftwich said the sewer project was at the "critical path" stage. Once the gravity sewer line is functioning, the force mains can be converted to moving reclaimed water, he said.

"The Chambers Drive Project takes two sanitary sewer pump stations off-line," Leftwich added. "Then we can rehabilitate other parts of the city's sewer system. Tighten it up."

Although new to the job as city manager, Brower told the council that “there are a lot of capital projects trying to move forward."

"The responsibility begins and ends with me," Brower said.

In other council actions, a special public hearing on the drought was approved for 10:30 a.m. April 7 at Lincoln City Hall’s third-floor conference room. At the meeting, the council will discuss the city's water supply condition and consider declaring a local water-shortage emergency.

Also, Brower announced that the City Council will move its meetings from McBean Pavilion to the Lincoln City Hall's third-floor conference room.

On Wednesday, Lincoln City Clerk Gwen Scanlon said council meetings will be held at the new location for the near future.

"We hope to move the City Council meetings permanently to City Hall but the third-floor conference room may not be the permanent location," Scanlon said. "We do not plan on moving the meetings back to McBean Pavilion."