Contractors Selected For Curb And Gutter Work; Backhoe Purchase Put On Hold For A Month

Contractors were selected for curb and gutter removal and replacement as part of the 2022 street improvement program, while a backhoe purchase was put on hold for a month by Sulphur Springs City Council. Also during the regular March council meeting earlier this week, action was taken to cancel the May 7 City Council election.

Street Work

Assistant City Manager/Community Development Director Tory Niewiadomski told the City Council the way the bid specifications were structured for curb and gutter removal and replacement on California Street and Brinker Street. was so that the city could consider approving one bid for both projects, one for each or none of the bids submitted by contractors.

City Attorney Nate Smith and Assistant City Manager/Community Development Director Tory Niewiadomski

The city received five bids from contractors for bids. The way the bids came in city staff recommending awarding the projects to two different contractors, one for each street improvement project. He recommended contracting with Richard Drake Contractors for work on California Street and with Highway 19 construction for the Brinker Street project. Drake is out of Paris and Highway 19 is local.

The two low bids , $21,000 bid from Richard Drake Construction of Paris for California Street curb and gutter removal and replacement program and $45,825 from Highway 19 Construction for the Brinker Street project.

As part of the consent agenda, the City Council on March 1 also approved a 380 agreement for 306 Easy Street.

The Council held an executive session 30 minutes prior to the regular meeting Tuesday night, but reported no action was required from that session.

City Manager Marc Maxwell reported the city will hold off completing paving of Lee Street from Brinker to League Street and League Street from Bellview to Pampa Street, both of which run in front of Sulphur Springs Elementary. Sulphur Springs ISD officials contacted the city to ask that the work be completed after school is out instead of during the school year so as not to interfere with traffic during the spring semester.

“There are twice as many streets being done with the street maintenance fee. We are going to be paving 7.18 miles of road, 37,884 feet. We will be expending more than 2 million dollars on it, over half of which comes from street maintenance fee. So this is your tax dollars at work,” Maxwell told the council.

City streets which were already scheduled for improvements this year, included:

  • Ardis Street, between Spence Street and Beckham Street,
  • Azalea, between Hillcrest Drive to Main Street,
  • Bonner Street, between Church and Davis Streets (in front of Central Fire Station)
  • Brinker from Beasley Street to the dead-end,
  • California Street between Church Street and Seventh Street, and
  • Charles Street from College Street to Lakeshore Drive were

The street maintenance fee is expected to allow the city to also make improvements to more than a dozen additional city streets this year. Streets listed for improvements using the SMF include:

  • Jackson Street, between Middle to College Street;
  • Kasie Lane, between Tate to Camp Streets,
  • Lee Street , between Davis (Brinker) and League Street,
  • Fore Street, between Main Street to Connally Street;
  • Glover, between Davis Street to Church Street
  • Forrest Lane between Bell Street to Connally Street; Garrison Street between Main and Connally Streets;
  • Houston Street. between Hillcrest Drive to League Street;
  • Commercial Services Drive, various spots of repair;
  • Como Street, between College Street and the railroad tracks;
  • Dabbs Street, between Gilmer and Davis Street;
  • Drexel Drive, between Broadway Street to Mockingbird Lane; and
  • Fisher Street, between Spence and Lee Streets.

Construction Equipment

Initially, the City Council was asked to consider approving the purchase of a backhoe from South Star JCB using a Sourcewell Contract, using $98,000 funding budgeted for the water distribution and wastewater collection department to get a new backhoe. The amount quoted during the budgeting process has increased to over $120,000, so that has been ruled out due to cost. City staff reached out to all manufacturers that have contracts with Sourcewell, a purchasing cooperative. They received three bids in response to that request as well as one for a 2019 used backhoe.

“After reviewing the equipment that was quoted to us, James Jordan – utilities director; he could not be here tonight – is recommending that you approve the purchase of a backhoe from South Star JCB for $106,953.50,” Smith noted.

Mayor John Sellers noted that would only be an $8,000 difference from the original quote.

“Whenever we started buying Caterpillars, we started having a lot less problems . JCB is an unknown. I talked to the department head. He feels fine with it. I don’t. How would you feel about coming back later and increasing the budget so you can buy a Caterpillar?” Maxwell asked the Council.

Smith said the amount quoted for a new unit was over $120,000, so the one proposed was used. They won’t go lower on the amount.

Maxwell said it’s been the city’s experience with equipment other than Caterpillar that about 15 months after purchase, the equipment begins having problems. The city manager said he was not disparaging the company, because that might not be case with their products. However, every time the city has switched from “something else to Caterpillar, we’ve been pleased with it.” He said when it comes to such a big purchase, you want to get your month’s worth for the product.

“Can we delay it for a month to have this looked at further, to see what y’all can come back to us with?” Sellers asked.

“Yes, I just want to see if there’s any out there. If guys say, ‘Nah, nah, we don’t want to do that,’ we’ll just do the other,” Maxwell said. “If you think it might be worth looking at, then lets look at it.”

“I’m just worried if your department head has taken into account the dig depth, 20-feet, 20-inch verses the 14 on the Cat and 101 horsepower,” Place 1 Councilman Jay Julian asked.

“Oh, he has. He kind of likes the dig depth,” Maxwell said.

“I’ve always like horsepower on equipment like that. A little more horsepower comes in handy at times,” Place 5 Councilman Gary Spraggins noted, asking for the city officials to once again describe the difference in costs to make sure he understood the amounts posts.

Smith noted that the information does appear to show the Caterpillar backhoe at a a lower price, $105,000, that rate is for a used 2019 model backhoe while the $106,000 bid is for a new JCB backhoe, and only has a 36-month 1500-hour warranty that only covers powertrain and hydraulics.

JCB and Case have backhoes available now. New Holland’s projection for new equipment is 4-6 months.

“In October, Capital Construction purchased a backhoe. They got the last backhoe from Holt Cat that they had on the lot,” Smith noted.

“I ask that y’all delay it,” Maxwell said.

“I say we wait, if we can get a better quality piece of equipment that’s going to outlast others… that’s more heavy duty,” Place 3 Councilman Oscar Aguilar said.

Spraggins asked how critical the need for the equipment now as opposed to waiting a month or more to make the purchase.

“James says what we have now is starting to have some electrical issues,” Smith replied. “They have a back up.”

“We’ll be fine,” Maxwell said.

“I guess they could possible see if capital construction would share theirs or either they would have to go rent,” Smith said.

The City Council declined the proposal to purchase of the backhoe from South Star JCB through Sourcewell at this time, pending further discussion and research regarding a backhoe.

Financial Reports

The general fund is positive, pretty close to what was budgeted.

The report given to the council at the March 1 meeting was through Jan. 31, 2022, reflecting property taxes collected. Any payments received after that time will be will be considered delinquent. Property tax collections are “about where they should be,” Assistant City Manager/Director of Finance Lesa Smith reported.

Sales taxes received through February were up 13.75%, a $280,000 increase over the same time last year.

Overall, in the departments for the general fund everybody is right where they should be at this time. A lot of times in the short beginning of the fiscal year, expenses are top heavy at the start of the fiscal year. So any overages are mainly due to that,” Smith reported.

She reported the one department that is slightly overbudget was the street department, which performed some drainage work this year that they don’t normally do.

A budget amendment is expected to be presented at the next City Council meeting, allowing for two readings. This would also allow the city to catch up and include any additional items which cost more than projected due largely to inflation.

Smith said she did do some research to answer a question posed by Julian at a February City Council meeting regarding sewer sales and revenue in the enterprise fund.

“I do see an account that is an issue, so we are taking steps right now to get that account fixed, and hopefully, that’s that,” Smith said. “That’s something that we are working on right now.”

Smith said the city was received $59,000 in American Rescue Act money last week for Sulphur Springs Municipal Airport. The funds will be reflected in the February financials, which the council should receive at hte April meeting. She said when the funding reimbursement request was made, the amount was based on Airport salaries.

Bids will be sought soon for construction of the basketball pavilion in Pacific Park, with submissions expected to be presented to the City Council in April for consideration. The new Grays Building opened last summer, an official opening and ribbon cutting for the new fitness court will be held from 10:30 a.m. to noon Friday, March 10, in Pacific Park. Crews have been readying another area of the park for construction of playground equipment. Bids for a basketball pavilion would allow the Pacific Park improvement project to enter the next phase.

Other Business

The City Council voted unanimously to accept the certificate of unopposed candidates and order canceling the May 7 General Election to fill Places 4 and 5 on the Sulphur Springs City Council. City officials noted there was no need to hold an election as the two candidates are unopposed for the seats they are seeking.

Tommy Harrison filed candidacy and in May will be administered the oath of office, replacing Freddie Taylor who opted not to seek another term in Place 4 on the Council. Gary Spraggins, who was elected to fill the remaining term of the individual who resigned from the Place 5 seat on the Council, is also scheduled to take the oath of office to serve a full three-year term starting in May as well.

Julian asked if the program to drive buzzards out of trees in town to another area using pyro-techniques has been successful. Sulphur Springs Police Chief Jason Ricketson reported there were a lot less of the pesky birds roosting in trees in the Sulphur Springs neighborhood between Main and Van Sickle Streets, Water Oak Street and League Streets. He said he’s not sure where they relocated to, but there were only about half a dozen of them left to drive out.

Author: Faith Huffman

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