City awaits written agreementPublished 12:08am Thursday, July 19, 2012
NATCHEZ — Pre-construction planning for the Natchez regional transit facility is currently stalled while the city awaits a commitment in writing for the $900,000 MDOT recently approved to help fund the project.
City Engineer David Gardner said the city is on a tight time frame to get the facility built because construction, which is supposed to take about a year, must be completed by September 2013.
Gardner said once the Mississippi Department of Transportation and the Federal Transit Administration both officially sign off on the funds in writing, the city can give the contractor the green light to start construction at a pre-construction conference.
The $900,000 in MDOT Formula Grants For Other than Urbanized Areas program, or Section 5311, funds is to help pay for approximately $1 million in unforeseen costs for the facility.
The city will also have to pay approximately $200,000 in matching funds for the 5311 funds. Gardner said he believes the city will only end up paying approximately $180,000.
At Gardner’s suggestion, the aldermen approved 5-1 that the $200,000 be taken out of the city’s capital improvements fund.
The money, he said, was originally allocated as matching funds for a grant to repair the former railroad depot that contains the Cock of the Walk and the Old South Trading Post and the old tollbooth colonnades at the Natchez Visitor Reception Center.
That grant, however, was denied. Gardner said the city is reapplying for the grant later this year, and he said he believes ad valorem taxes and other funds will replenish the $200,000 needed for the transit facility.
City officials originally thought the facility, which will be located at the former location of the A-B Motor Company on North Shields Lane, would be fully funded by a grant that required no matching funds from the city.
The facility is being funded by a federal stimulus package through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Natchez Transit System has worked with the Mississippi Department of Transportation and Federal Transit Administration, which is administering the funding, on getting approval for the project.
The four construction bids the aldermen received at their June 12 meeting were all more than the project’s budget, approximately $1 million more than the $2.4 million construction budget for the project.
Gardner has said estimates made by the project’s design engineers at ABMB Engineers in Baton Rouge did not factor in the Buy American provision of the ARRA.
The cost estimates, Gardner said, also did not factor in the rise in material costs since the original budget was completed approximately three years ago.
Revised cost estimates, Gardner said, closely match the lowest construction bid, which was made by Paul Jackson Construction for $3.4 million.