Sherman’s planned sidewalk improvements along Houston and Lamar streets are being pushed back again.
The Sherman City Council recently rejected the two bids received for the second phase of the city’s downtown Streetscape Project. The city plans to put the project, which will include the installation of 10-foot-wide sidewalks along Houston and Lamar streets from Walnut Street to Throckmorton Street, back out for bid this month.
“One of the responses was incomplete, so we kind of set that one to the side,” City Manager Robby Hefton said of the bids received by the city. “The other response that was complete, we couldn’t qualify them as a qualifying vendor, so there really are two bids that are not qualifying for this.”
The delay comes about 15 months after the Texas Department of Transportation chose the project for a Transportation Alternatives Program, which will provide the bulk of the funding for the work. The advance funding agreement with TxDOT will see the city paying an estimated $40,783 of the total project’s $515,928 construction cost. When the second phase of the city’s Streetscape Project was discussed last year, city staff said 39,800 square feet of existing sidewalks were to be removed and replaced with 68,400 square feet of new 10-foot-wide sidewalks on each side of the street by the summer of 2017.
In August, Director of Engineering Clint Philpott said Sherman received the grant in September 2015 but didn’t sign the agreement to start the design work until July of last year. At that time, the city hoped the have the second phase of the project completed by the summer of 2017, but had to finish environmental studies and other TxDOT requirements before it could advertise for a contractor for the work.
“Pending TxDOT approval of bids, construction should start December 2017,” Philpott said, via email, of the latest delay. “Project completion time is 120 calendar day, so completion (is) expected (in) April 2018.”
The bids rejected by the council this month were for $378,054.65 from Beezley Development and $398,673.23 from Mitchell Enterprises LTD. Before the council unanimously voted to reject the bids, though Deputy Mayor Jason Sofey was absent from the meeting, council member Pam Howeth asked why the city didn’t receive more bids or at least ones that could qualify.
“Relatively speaking, this is a small job and so the larger contractors aren’t interested because they’ve got their plates full with other things,” Hefton said. “So it really lends itself more to a smaller type of construction firm, who are all busy as well. That’s the reason we didn’t get as many bids as we would have say, three or four years ago.”
Philpott added that this kind of project often does not appeal to all contractors.
“Anytime you do a rehab project, there’s certain contractors, if they’re busy enough, they don’t want to mess with rehab,” Philpott said. “If they can get contracts to build new, it’s more efficient for them.”
The director of engineering explained the city had five companies attend the prebid meeting to find out about the project.
“We’re still kind of a large small community,” Hefton said. “We have folks that come into our offices that say, ‘Hey, do you have any projects coming up?’ So there’s a fair amount of that type of interest that we get. Now, whether they actually end up bidding is a different thing.”
Howeth said she believes the project, once completed, will improve the city.
“This just is going to enhance Sherman, on the streets and all,” she said. “That’s why I was disappointed to see this did not go through.”
Philpott previously said once this phase of the Streetscape project is finished, the city plans to apply for another grant to do a third phase of the project. In addition to the sidewalks, the planned project will also see 14 ramps installed that meet the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, 60 trees planted and the creation of eight railroad crossings for pedestrians. The city included $150,000 in the 2015-2020 Capital Improvement Program for the design of the project and as local match funds.
Hefton previously said the third phase could complete the project, but depending on the availability of funds from TxDOT, there may be additional phases beyond one more.
Despite the delay, Philpott is hopeful the city will find a contractor to take on the second phase of the project soon.
“I know there were a couple (contractors) that didn’t bid on it because they were too busy,” Philpott said. “Our hope is to kind of figure out if this month is a nonbusy time and get a couple more bidders, or it may be that we wait a couple months.”
The city was awarded a grant from TxDOT in July 2010 for the first phase of the Streetscape Project. The grant was executed in March 2012 for the amount of $353,977.60, while the city put up the remaining $256,208.91 of the projects total construction cost of $610,186.51. With the funds, Sherman created pedestrian-friendly plazas around the Grayson County Courthouse and decreased the pedestrian crosswalks. That initial phase of the Streetscape Project was completed in November 2012.