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Frierson: Council should not short-change streets in $45 million infrastructure work

City councilman Matt Frierson said one needs only to drive down Church Street to see why it’s a bad idea under the upcoming $45 million infrastructure bond program to spend all the money on water and sewer lines and nothing on streets.

This photo was taken Friday of Church Street near its intersection with Brame Street. (eParisExtra photo)
This is a photo taken Friday on Church Street near its intersection with Brame Street. (eParisExtra photo)

Members of the Paris City Council took turns last week expressing their dismay about the torn-up streets left by the ongoing $1.8 million replacement of 2.3 miles of corroded cast-iron water lines near downtown.

“Obviously, this hits close to home for me,” said Frierson, who lives on Church Street, where a contractor has been told to come back in and re-do the asphalt repair.

“This has been embarrassing,” Frierson said in a dialogue with city manager John Godwin and city engineer Shawn Napier.

“One of the areas we’ve been looking at involves asphalt repair. That’s not been done in a timely manner, and the asphalt repair that has been done has not been done to our satisfaction,” Napier agreed.

“With respect to the roadways that have been torn up — Church Street in particular, and I’ve also driven on Third Street — they’re disastrous. Is it going to continue to be this bad?” Frierson asked.

“When we get into this (bond) project, I’m for using this experience as an example of what will be to come. You know, we are agreed — or disagreed — about money from the bond being for street repair. But if you haven’t, you should go drive down Church Street right now and see what that may or may not look like,” Frierson said.

This is a look at Northeast 3rd Street, one block north of Lamar Avenue. (eParisExtra photo)
This is a look at Northeast 3rd Street, one block north of Lamar Avenue. (eParisExtra photo)

Mayor AJ Hashmi objected last June, when KSA Engineers came out with a priority list — 48 jobs at a cost of $45.5 million. KSA projected a cost of $9.6 million to replace water lines, $5.5 million to replace sewer lines and $30.3 million to lay down new roadway afterward.

That would take care of the city’s worst water and sewer problems, but spending only one-third of the the bond money on water and sewer line replacement would leave numerous Paris neighborhoods with no relief, the mayor said.

“We should use bond money for water and sewer — not streets — to make the bond money go as far as it can,” the mayor said after looking at the cost proposals.

Hashmi said the council should use money out of reserves, if necessary, to pay for streets. He suggested “patching” streets, rather than putting in brand new roads. A seven-person citizens’ advisory committee was told to re-direct its efforts to allocate bond money on replacement of water and sewer lines, not roadway.

“Aesthetically, what’s that going to look like?” Frierson asked during last Monday’s council meeting, considering the unacceptable streets left in the wake of the current infrastructure project.

This is Southeast 3rd Street, one block south of Clarksville Street. (eParisExtra photo)
This is Southeast 3rd Street, one block south of Clarksville Street. (eParisExtra photo)

“This has gone on way too long with no decent end in sight, at the expense of those on 3rd Street and Church Street in particular. To say that I am displeased by it is probably an enormous understatement.”

District 3 councilman John Wright weighed in.

“Although that’s not my district, I have a lot of friends that live in that area, and the complaints have been steadily coming in. If this is a learning curve, it must be longer than the rainbow,” Wright said.

District 2 councilwoman Sue Lancaster noted work being done on West Kaufman Street, in her district, and asked, “It’s not going to end up looking like Church Street, is it? As bad as Church Street looks, I don’t want any other streets looking this bad.”

District 6 councilwoman Cleonne Drake added: “My biggest question was how did this fall through the cracks for so long, and just some concerns that this does not happen when we get ready for the big project.”

McInnis Brothers Construction, Inc., of Minden, La., was the low bidder on the project, which is still in progress despite an agreement to have the work completed in January.

Two local firms also bid on the project. McInnis’ bid of $1,815,203 was 9.5 percent below the $2,008,320 bid of Barney Bray Construction Co. and 13.5 percent below the $2,097,887 bid of Harrison Walker Harper.

It turned out later, Napier said, that the winning bidder transposed two numbers “and left $40,000 or $50,000 on the table, so they were kind of behind the eight ball to start that project.”

The subcontractor actually performing the work has been Dual Construction, Inc., out of Texarkana, Ark., Napier said.

The city manager agreed with the council’s glum assessment of the project that is still in the process of winding down.

“I don’t have anything to add other than this was not, is not, a good project,” Godwin responded.

“It’s the sort of project that we can’t repeat. … I think there were those who accepted what I would consider poor quality work too easily, too readily.”

Napier said the replacement of corroded cast-iron water lines with new PVC pipe “is being done correctly … but aesthetically, it is not pleasing at all. It is far from that in a lot of areas.”

The asphalt work that has been done on streets afterward “has not been done to our satisfaction,” Napier said.

The contractor “is going to hire a local company to come back in and possibly remove a great majority of (the asphalt) and re-lay that … where it would be smooth and match the current edge of the pavement,” he said.

Another issue, Napier said, “is the general clean-up of the project. It has not been to our satisfaction. Among the things we have encountered are multiple piles of dirt up and down the project length. We’ve gotten a letter from one of the property owners and we have removed that dirt from the owner’s property. Right now, the contractor has someone on site who has been removing that dirt, and that is their fulltime job until it’s done.”

Some problems were experienced with work done by a boring contractor “who was not vetted very well,” Napier added.

By Charles Richards, eParisExtra