Work on long awaited streetscape project could start in March
The long awaited downtown Cairo streetscape project could finally get underway nearly five years after the city was awarded a $700,000 grant to pay for it.
However, the project will cost more than projected and the city received only one bid for the work.
According to Cairo City Manager Chris Addleton, five contractors pulled plans but, in the end, only JCI General Contractors, Inc., of Moultrie submitted a bid.
The city advertised for bids late last year and at that time received a lone bid, but that time it was from A.C. Blount Concrete Services, Inc., of Moultrie.
On the recommendation of the city manager, the council rejected the Blount bid in December because it was nearly a half million more than the projected cost of the project. The city had budgeted $1 million for the project, which includes the $700,000 grant, with the remaining funds to come from Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax proceeds and earnings from the city’s Municipal Competitive Trust account. Blount’s bid was $1,505,103.41.
The city readvertised the project for bid and the one bid submitted this round from JCI was for $1,137,087, which is still in excess of the projected cost.
“Celeste (Tyler, the city’s Main Street director) and I called and talked to each contractor who pulled plans and encouraged them to bid. All were very positive but, on Jan. 29, only one contractor showed up,” Addleton said.
Although interest in the project is apparently limited, Addleton said that JCI General Contractors and A.C. Blount had the most experience with similar projects in the region.
“I know that JCI has done work for Moultrie, Thomasville and Bainbridge. They are highly regarded by the Department of Transportation consultant,” Addleton told the council Monday night.
The city manager said he was very disappointed in receiving only one bid and he indicated that JCI’s bid for the required roadway milling and overlay was too high. Addleton is contemplating tying that part of the project in with another resurfacing project in hopes of reducing the cost.
According to Addleton, there is a buildup of six inches of asphalt on Broad Street that is an accumulation of years of resurfacing. The plans call for an inch and a half to be milled off.
“I still think this project should be between $900,000 and $1 million, but it’s not,” the city manager said. He cautioned the council against rejecting the bid and readvertising.
Both Addleton and Main Street Director Tyler expressed concern that the cost may increase or no bids may be received.
Councilman James H. (Jimmy) Douglas suggested the city manager seek additional funding from the Department of Transportation. “It may be a long shot, but we can ask. Sometimes they have money not spent elsewhere that may be reallocated,” Douglas said.
Councilman Jerry Cox said that there is no way to measure the return on the investment, but he asked for assurance that the city council and administration thought this was the best investment of city funds.
Cox said the city should not invest in the project if the council is not prepared to market downtown properly. “We don’t need to invest in this and walk away from it,” Cox said.
Councilman Douglas said the project is a quality of life improvement that would hopefully generate a healthier tax base downtown. “I don’t know if it will attract a whole lot of new businesses downtown, but we’ve got to do something to attract people downtown. If we don’t do something, we don’t have a chance,” Douglas said.
Councilman Douglas also said that making downtown attractive to more full-time downtown residents would benefit business downtown and make the central business district more vibrant.
Councilman Lannis Thornton voiced support for the project and said if the city does not invest in downtown, “we could lose it completely.”
“If it’s good for this town, I’m for it,” Cox said. Cox is the newest member of the council and has not been involved in previous discussions concerning the streetscape project.
“When can we get started?” Councilman Douglas asked.
The city manager and Main Street director said a notice to proceed would likely be issued next month.
City officials want to have the work completed before the start of the Christmas holiday shopping season so that downtown merchants and businesses are not inconvenienced.
This first phase of the streetscape project will encompass from South Broad Street at the railroad south to the intersection of Second Ave. S.E. and M.L. King Jr. Ave. S.W.
The project includes a reduction in lanes on South Broad Street to two plus a turning lane, landscaping, benches and new lighting and traffic signals.
City officials had said previously that it will take four to six months to complete phase one.
Phase two, which has already been designed, as has phase three, would run from the railroad to Roddenbery Memorial Library. The phase three of the streetscape would connect Broad Street to Davis Park on the east and to the Grady Cultural Center on the west.