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City OKs bid for downtown sewer work

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By Rich Bauer, Managing Editor

More than eight years after Sandra Leidner broached the idea of making improvements to Vandalia’s downtown business district, the city is on the verge of seeing some of that work get under way.

And, hopefully, the city will learn in about a week whether there are contractors interested in taking on another phase of the downtown improvements.

On its fourth attempt, after separating facets of the projects due to unsuccessful bidding attempts in the past, the Vandalia City Council has accepted a bid for sewer line improvements in the downtown business district.

The council voted at its meeting on Monday night to accept the bid of Mettler Development of Highland, one of five received by the city.

Mettler’s bid of $72,570 was one of two that is below the engineers’ estimate of $78,795.

That bid covers the replacement of sewer lines on Gallatin Street near the Fifth and Sixth street intersections and in the alley next to Nice Twice in the 400 block.

The council did not act on bids for the replacement of a sewer line along Seventh Street, due to the fact that the cost of that work has been increased substantially because of Illinois Department of Transportation requirements for work done along state highways. Seventh Street is also Old Route 40.

The engineers’ estimate for the work on Seventh Street was $348,850, and the five bids received by the city range from $218,598 to $318,726.

City Administrator Jimmy Morani said that the city will explore other options for the Seventh-Street phase of the project.

Lorne Jackson of HMG Engineers of Carlyle said the firm hopes to see the sewer line construction get under way early next month, and that the work will take up to four months to complete, with weather being among the factors on the project progress.

As they meet with the contractor and subcontractors, Jackson said, the engineers will specify that work that needs to be completed prior to the startup of the downtown streetscape project is completed first.

The city will learn on Jan. 16 whether any contractors are interested in taking on the streetscape work, and if so, whether any bids received are acceptable. The estimated cost of the work, including the paving of Gallatin Street, is about $3.77 million, Morani said.

The streetscape work will include new sidewalks with brick insets and edging, new trash cans and benches, flowering dogwood trees, the replacement of existing street lights with period lights and the relocation of overhead utility lines underground.

To pay for the work, the city plans to use Motor Fuel Tax funds received from the state, federal TEA-21 funds received during Leidner’s tenure as mayor, monies generated by the city’s infrastructure tax, about $200,000 coming from the state for the street paving (estimated to cost $1 million) and possibly monies from the city’s general fund.

At this point, Jackson said, HMG is optimistic that the city will receive a number of bids for the streetscape work. He told the council that six or seven contractor have expressed an interest in the work.

Jackson said HMG hopes that the streetscape work can get under way as early as March, and that the project will take about a year to complete.

Also at the meeting:

• A motion to rezone property on West Jefferson Street from two-family residential to general commercial died for lack of a motion.

Jeanine Marine and Larry Joe Wright Jr. requested the zoning change for property at 1900 W. Randolph St. Maxie Shaw said he planned to sell merchandise from a shed that was formerly used for a produce business.

The council’s decision not to act on the request came about three weeks after the Vandalia Planning Commission voted to not recommend the zoning change.

• The council approved an ordinance amendment that allows public health departments and agencies to operate in all areas of town except those that carry residential zoning designations.

The council approved an annexation request submitted by Steve and Kyle Barker. The Barkers asked to have eight lots on Illini Avenue located south of P&G Machine and Tool brought into the city.

• The council approved an ordinance amendment that allows insurance agencies to locate within areas having a medical district zoning designation.

The amendment was proposed as a result of Clint Flowers expressing an interest in moving his insurance agency into the former home of Bandy’s Pharmacy at Eighth and Taylor streets.

• Scott Hunt of Hurst-Roche Engineers of Hillsboro reported that the renovation of the Vandalia Fire Station should get under way next week. The project includes the addition of a third bay door.

Hunt also reported that the bid opening for the replacement of the roof on the new city hall is set for Feb. 24, with the council to vote on accepting a bid on March 2.

He also told aldermen that Hurst-Roche has completed the inspection of seven bridges in the city and submitted a report on the bridge inspections to IDOT on Monday. About the inspections, Hunt said, “Nothing has worsened since the last inspections.”

The city must have the bridges inspected every two years.

The council approved the city’s second distribution of 2008 funds for Vandalia Main Street. The city gives Main Street $15,000 each year, provided in two $7,500 distributions.

• In his report, Mayor Rick Gottman said that he is continuing to work with Illinois Historic Preservation Agency officials on the reopening of the Vandalia Statehouse. The old state capitol will be reopened once the state completes the process of hiring a full-time employee.

“We hope to have someone in place by the end of the month. If not, we hope it’s reopened by (Abraham) Lincoln’s 200th birthday (on Feb. 12),” Gottman said.

Gottman also said that Marty Davis, owner of the Vandalia McDonald’s, recently held an appreciation breakfast for the city’s crossing guards. Gottman thanked Davis for helping to fund the crossing guard program.