City budget has little wiggle room for added costs

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The Othello City Council is facing roughly $175,000 in additional costs related to several major road projects around town, which is a hard hit for the city’s already tight budget.

During its regularly scheduled meeting Feb. 26 the council voted unanimously to award Schneider Water Services a $1.7 million contract to redrill the city’s troubled No. 3 well.

The Oregon-based company submit a bid for $970,000 to drill the well, with additional costs covering moving the pump house and engineering work. The city intends to pay for the well project with a loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Fund.

“The loan application is on a parallel track,” said City Administrator Wade Ferris. “Rural Development is amenable to getting it approved.”

Council members unanimously approved a request to pay an extra $155,525 for its portion of reconstructing E. Olympia Street from 7th Avenue to 14th Avenue as part of the nearly 250-unit Sand Hill Development project. According to Othello Community Development Director Anne Henning, the additional costs will bring the city’s portion of the Olympia Street project to around $425,000.

“Most of the changes were costs that weren’t included in the first place,” Henning told the city council. “It does take the street budget down pretty far, but in the end you will get a rebuilt street.”

While some costs on the Olympia Street project have declined, a few have increased, including replacing the 4-inch water pipe and properly preparing the road bed on the southern portion of Olympia, Henning said.

But there were concerns among some council members that costs could spiral out of control, and problems could easily eat up the $33,000 the city has set aside to deal with project contingencies.

“If we allocate $425,000, I don’t want to see $450,000 spent,” said council member John Lallas.

Sand Hill developer Angel Garza — who, as a member of the city council, recused himself from the vote — said he was comfortable with the new figure and would try to stick to it but has no idea what problems might be coming.

“Maybe it will cost more,” Garza said. “We ran into two pipes that were not where the maps said they should be.”

Given that rebuilding and repaving a block of street costs more than $200,000, the city is getting a deal paying for half of the seven-block reconstruction of Olympia Street.

“We get three-and-a-half blocks for $425,000, a discount of what the city would pay,” Mayor Shawn Logan said.

The council also approved $59,360 to pay for additional costs involved with the First Avenue resurfacing project.

According to Kurt Holland, an engineer with Varela & Associates who oversaw the First Avenue project, most of the additional costs involved removing and disposing of asbestos cement water pipes and a mess caused when construction crews broke a water pipe that had not been accurately mapped.

“It had to be removed,” Holland said. “We try to leave it (asbestos cement) in place, it is a hazardous waste, but we had to remove it.”

“When we finalize this, First Avenue is done, we can put it to bed?” Lallas asked.

Holland said road crews needed to permanently stripe the road.

“That’s already paid for,” he added.

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