Sylacauga streetscape project

A streetscape project for the 300 block of North Broadway Avenue in Sylacauga could begin this spring once some kinks are worked out with the costs.

SYLACAUGA -- The City Council has a decision to make after the lone bid for downtown improvements to a one block area came in higher than expected.

The bid concerns a project that would be paid for mostly through a federal grant that dates back to 2015.

This is the first of three federal Transportation Alternative Program (TAP) grants funded to the city through a Community Development Block Grant. Each grant is an 80-20 match, with federal funds at 80 percent, while local funds are a 20 percent match.

The grant in question is for the 300 block of North Broadway Avenue, which includes City Hall and B.B. Comer Memorial Library. The estimated cost for improvements on that block was more than $300,000, with a $217,810 TAP grant.

This streetscape project for the block includes both sides of the street with new ornamental lighting, new sidewalks, pavers and planters.

The City Council learned during a meeting last week there was only one bidder for the project, and the bid came in above estimates.

Mike Whetstone, interim director of the city Code Department, said available options included accepting the bid, negotiating, rejecting it and rebidding.

He also said the project could be modified and rebid in an effort to cut costs.

Council President Lee Perryman suggested perhaps the designers of the project could do the modifications using an alternate bid method to see if the cost becomes more competitive.

Whetstone said the city had run in to cost overruns in the past. “The market is crazy now. Concrete costs are higher than estimated,” he said.

Mayor Jim Heigl said Wednesday afternoon the Alabama Department of Transportation, which works with municipalities on these projects, had made some recommendations to the city regarding the endeavor.

Heigl noted the city’s out-of-pocket costs were now estimated above the $100,000 it was originally planning to spend.

“ALDOT’s recommendation cuts it back some, but the final decision on a recommendation must come from the council,” he said.

“That decision, I expect, will be made at next week’s meeting. I can’t thank ALDOT enough for their efforts and help with this project. I think everything is going to be OK, and we can get this work started.”