Town hall, streets, water system get attention
Public works projects dominated discussion at last week’s Twisp Town Council meeting.
The council supported staff recommendations for major improvements to the town’s water system, several street paving projects, and revised plans for a new town hall.
The council formally rejected construction bids for Twisp’s new civic building and operations center, which came in substantially higher than expected in May. Construction, which had been scheduled to begin this summer, has been postponed to next year.
Since the bid opening, Public Works Director Andrew Denham has been “value engineering” plans for the building to reduce costs, and the town explored options for grants or loans to close the funding gap. Those didn’t materialize, so the town needed to reject the original bids to begin the process of re-applying for funding support through the federal Department of Agriculture Rural Development Grant and Loan program.
The application is for a combination of loans and grants of up to $750,000 that would help close the funding gap for the new civic building. The town had previously sought up to $600,000. Denham said the additional funds requested would provide a “buffer” against unexpected cost increases, such as construction expenses related to coronavirus countermeasures.
Denham said it may still be possible to issue another round of bid requests later this year.
Water meter project
The council also rejected a proposal by Apollo Solutions Group to replace the town’s water meters and make other improvements to the water system, as part of an energy savings contract. The Apollo bid put the total cost of the project at $411,000.
Denham said he was “disappointed” to recommend rejection of the Apollo proposal, but the proposal’s payback period for the project’s costs would be spread over 29 years, whereas the town had specified a 15-year payback period. Additionally, Denham said, the proposal included use of water meter models that the town “has had issues with in the past,” Denham said.
“It’s just too expensive,” Denham said. “There are other options that are more affordable.”
To that end, Denham promptly introduced a plan he and his staff developed for essentially the same work at a cost of about $279,000. That includes replacing all the water meters that haven’t previously been replaced, installation of an automated meter reading system, installation of remote monitoring for the pump that controls the water level in the town’s reservoir, and other well improvements that will increase efficiency and save operating expenses.
Replacing the water meters will allow the town to remotely read all the meters in a few hours as opposed to several days, Denham said. The other improvements will address water losses in the existing system, he said.
The council also supported a proposal by Denham to apply for two grants through the state Transportation Improvement Board’s Small City Arterial Program.
The Cascade Drive Arterial Project would resurface that street, which provides access to WasteWise Sanitation Services and other businesses. The application notes that the street is in extremely poor condition, and repairs would allow the street to handle heavy industrial traffic. Total cost would be about $228,000.
The second project would be for chip seal treatment on Twisp Avenue, Borchard Lane, Magers Street, Marble Street and Lookout Mountain Road, for a total of about $77,000. Okanogan County can perform that work at a substantial cost savings to the town, Denham said.
Denham said the town had pared the project costs down from a previous grant application to make the proposal more attractive to the Transportation Improvement Board. “It’s barebones but enough,” Denham said of the grant requests.
Denham also reported that dust abatement is underway on several unpaved town streets.
Finally, Denham said bids requests have gone out for the Canyon Street crossing project where it intersects with Highway 20. Denham said the hope is to land a contractor for possible completion of the project before the year is out. The project will include a new bus stop, improved pedestrian crosswalks, bicycle lanes and two landscaped “refuge islands” in the middle of Highway 20. “We don’t see any negatives to put it out to bid,” Denham said.
In other business, Mayor Soo Ing-Moody said plans are in place for staff adjustments if an employee contracts COVID-19 and needs to be quarantined. The council also adopted a telecommuting policy for town employees.