Council approves bids for digital upgrades to utilities system

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ROBERTSDALE, Alabama — The Robertsdale City Council voted Monday, Oct. 5 to accept bids for the expansion to an automated meter-reading system for city utilities.

In May of 2019, the council approved an agreement for engineering services with Civil Southeast for the application preparation, plan, specification and bid services for project materials and project management and critical phase construction engineering and observation.

On Oct. 5, the council unanimously approved a pair of bids, including a bid for materials of just over $1.6 million from Core & Main LP for materials for the project.

While it was the only bid on the project, city engineer Greg Smith said other companies were contacted about the project.

“We reached out to (Core & Main) early on in the process and we’re confident that they can meet our requirements,” Smith said.

Mayor Charles Murphy said other companies that were contacted had issues such as the inability to communicate between the different readers.

“We are starting with water meters but will eventually switch gas and sewer meters over and need all of the meters to be able to communicate with each other,” Murphy said. “That was an issue with some of the companies we contacted.”

The council also voted unanimously to approve AMI installation with Baird Contracting Co. Inc. at a cost of $354,825.

Baird was the low bidder on the project. Other bids were received from Vanguard Utility Services, Hemphill Construction Company and Core & Main.

The council also voted unanimously to adopt a pair of resolutions, a requirement of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.

The council also voted in May of 2019 to accept a $1.5 million loan from ADEM for the project.

The project would include the installation of 3,600 AMI meters for the city’s water system. It will also put the infrastructure in place for the future installation of AMI electrical meters and gas meters, in total about 7,000 meters, Murphy said.

While the bid amounts for the project exceed the loan amount, officials said it is because they include overage costs that may not be incurred when the final project is completed.

“We will only have to pay for the meters we need to install at the time,” Smith said, “and those costs should be covered by the loan amount.”

In May of 2019, it was stated that the city will make payments over a 20-year period with a fixed interest rate of 2.2 percent.

With the city looking to add a minimum of 1,000 meters of the next decade, Murphy said, switching to the AMI system will allow the city to keep costs down.

In other business Oct. 5, the council took a pair of actions related to the continued recovery from Hurricane Sally last month.

First, the council voted to approve a 1-year, $2 million emergency line of credit with Citizens’ Bank. The line of credit would include a 2.5 percent tax free fixed rate with interest-only paid monthly.

Officials said the city has already incurred an estimated $1.1 million in expenses from the storm, adding that the final total should be somewhere between $5 million to $6 million.

“Right now, FEMA has yet to even begin the process of reimbursement,” said CFO Anne Simpson. “It could take several months for us to get any kind of reimbursement.”

Simpson said when she was hired in 2005 the city was still in the process of finalizing reimbursement from Hurricane Ivan the year before. FEMA reimbursed the city 75 percent of the cost for debris cleanup following that storm, while the state of Alabama paid an additional 15 percent, leaving the city to pay the remaining 10 percent.

Murphy said that Gov. Kay Ivey, in a conference call with municipal and county officials, assured local leaders that she would ask FEMA to reimburse 90 percent of the cost, also promising that the state would make the cost up to 90 percent if FEMA did not meet that goal.

Murphy said city-wide, including damage incurred by private residents, the city could be looking at close to $16 million in damages.

The council also approved the purchase of electronic devices to monitor debris collection from Debris Tech at a cost of $114.50.

Officials said the monitors, which will be placed on the trucks collecting debris, will replace staff members who were hired to monitor debris collection at the city’s two cites which have been set up.

“They have been working hard to keep up with debris collection since the day of the storm and this will give them a much-needed break,” Murphy said.

Debris Tech was the low bidder on the project. They also received the highest score on the project based on cost, qualification and technical approach. Other bids were received by Tetra Tech, Volkert, Goodwin, Mills & Cawood, True North Emergency Management, Beaufort Engineering Services Inc. and Disaster Program & Operations Inc.

Also on Oct. 5, the council: