The Hamlet Town Council spent almost an hour Thursday trying to bring its proposed Railroad Street project in line with the town’s budget. The town plans to apply for a Community Crossings Grant to cover 75 percent of the cost, while the rest would likely come out of Hamlet’s Economic Development Income Tax Fund.
The three bids the town received ranged from just over $318,000 to nearly $344,000 for the entire project from Starke Street west to Jefferson Street. Bidders were asked to offer specific prices for various parts of the project, to allow council members to scale it back, depending on the cost. But how to do that was the topic of a lengthy discussion during Thursday’s special council meeting.
Council member Brian Earnest suggested cutting sidewalk replacement out of the project. “Like some of these sections of sidewalk that you’d be doing, by doing the entire road there, the owners aren’t even going to want it in some of those sections,” he said. “It’d be useless because it’s just going to be driven over the top of all the time. And some other homeowners are going to lose every tree in their yard. I mean, I’ve talked to these people on that section of road, and they don’t want a sidewalk. Trust me.” Beyond that, Earnest felt that it would be cheaper to repair the sidewalk without the grant funding, since the town could hire a concrete contractor separately from the paving.
However, Council President Dave Kesvormas felt that upgrading the sidewalks could encourage development in the area by improving its appearance. Instead, he suggested cutting the section east of Division out of the project. “It’s already wide,” he said. “It’s been done. It was done eight years ago, where when you’re looking from Ashland to Jefferson Street, it’s like you almost have to have two little cars like Father Spanley to run down that side of the street.” Earnest pointed out that the eastern end of Railroad Street gets a lot of wear and tear from truck traffic.
In the end, council member Connie Bailey sided with Earnest, and they decided to stick with the whole length but without the sidewalks. But that presented another list of challenges. The lowest bidder on the overall project ended up being the highest bidder once the sidewalks were removed, and the highest bidder on the overall project ended up being the lowest.
Engineer Lee Nagai felt it wouldn’t be fair to make such a significant change to the project’s scope without offering the bidders a chance to revise their cost estimates. But with one week until the Community Crossings application is due, time is running out to get the costs solidified. Nagai agreed to contact the three bidders today and give them the chance to update their bids. Council members plan to make a final selection when they meet on Wednesday.