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Council votes to rescind, rebid contracts

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The Lebanon City Council has started from scratch on sidewalk and waterline projects that provoked controversy when the councilors voted 5-1 last month to award the contracts for the projects to the bidder they considered the "best" instead of the lowest.

The council voted Tuesday night to rescind its award of the contracts to Lebanon's Conrad Construction Co., and rebid both projects with specifications expanding their scope.

On the other hand, the council wrapped up another agenda item that had been delayed, giving up the city's right-of-way to a one-block section of Wildwood Avenue, which will revert the street to the property owner on both sides of Wildwood - Immanuel Baptist Church.

Street-to-church vote is 6-0
The vote on the second reading of the Wildwood ordinance was postponed last month so a public hearing could be held first, to meet legal requirements. Immanuel wants to control the street to enhance the safety of church and community members walking back and forth between church buildings, Pastor John Hunn initially told the Lebanon Planning Commission and later, the city council.

A public hearing was held before Tuesday night's council meeting, but no one spoke during the hearing. Instead, Hunn briefly addressed the council during the "public comments" section of the regular meeting, urging it to pass the ordinance.

About 100 church members also attended the meeting, like they have throughout the process. And in the end, the council's vote to abandon Wildwood Avenue from Castle Heights to Crest Drive was unanimous.

Rebids 'dropped in'
The two ordinances "dropped in" to the agenda proposing the rebids of the sidewalk and waterline projects met with approval from the council as well. Both included rescinding the ordinances which accepted the "best," not lowest, bids for construction last month.

The first new ordinance would rebid the sidewalk contract to include sidewalk repair on South Tarver Avenue, which was recommended by the Lebanon American Disability Act Task Force after the initial bids were accepted in June. Its first reading was approved unanimously Tuesday night.

The second new ordinance to expand and rebid the waterline project passed its first hurdle 5-1 with District 3 Councilor Rob Cesternino voting no on the first reading.

The project expansion came after additional funds became available due to the 2015-2016

budget being passed. The original ordinance accepted in June was to construct a water main loop connection in the vicinity of Virginia Avenue, while the new one would add more new waterlines.

Cesternino was the councilor who made the original motions to accept Conrad Construction as the "best" contractor for the projects rather than the lowest bidders. Conrad's bid was $6,332.70 higher for the sidewalk project and $29,870.40 higher for the waterline project.

Ward 2 Councilor Fred Burton voted on second reading last month against awarding the contracts to the higher bidder after unsuccessfully urging the rest of the councilors to reconsider.

Update on road projects
In a council work session before its regular meeting Tuesday night, councilors were brought up to date on the progress of the Beckwith Road connector and Legends Drive extension project.

Legends Drive is nearer to ready for work to begin than the Beckwith connector is, Mayor Philip Craighead told the council.

The major reason is that there has been a dispute regarding which government entity would be providing sewer in the Beckwith area, Craighead said, calling the dispute a "lawsuit," but now it has been settled, he believes.

At this time, the preliminary design and right-of-way (ROW) acquisition plans for the Legends Drive project have been completed, and the city has applied for a "conditional letter of map revision" from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The agency is expected to take two to six months to approve that letter, City Engineer and Public Works Commissioner Jeff Baines said.

However, the next step in acquiring ROW can be started as soon as the council approves acquiring it, Baines added.

ROW donations expected
Initially, the city will request ROW donations from property owners, Baines told the council, and he expects some of them will willingly donate the needed ROW since it will increase the value of their remaining property.

Baines added that he would come back to the council to authorize appraisals and purchase of any land not donated.

He also said the construction could begin as soon as Oct. 1, but if the approval from FEMA takes a full six months, construction won't begin until Jan. 1.

The Beckwith Road connector design is complete for Section I in Mt. Juliet, which is part of the proposed Bel Air development. But plans for the two sections in Lebanon are not complete, according to Baines.

Section II is about 50 to 75 percent complete, but has been put on hold by Bel Air's consulting engineer. Section III has a completed preliminary design by the City of Lebanon's consultant, Gresham Smith, and the final plan is expected to be ready by Jan. 1.

The final, approximately two-mile section is not yet budgeted for design. Baines said the next step on that section would be for the city council to budget and authorize a preliminary design and ROW acquisition proposal.

Again, some property owners will most likely donate ROW, Baines said he hopes.

Writer Connie Esh can be contacted at cewrites@yahoo.com.

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