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City awards Town Green construction bid

Towell votes 'no' in protest over H-tax use

Posted: September 15, 2010 2:42 p.m.
Updated: September 17, 2010 5:00 a.m.

Camden City Council voted 3-1 Tuesday night to approve a low bid of $1.068 million by AOS Specialty Contractors of Columbia to transform the East Back Lot off Rutledge Street into the city's proposed Town Green.

The lone "no" vote came from Councilman Ned Towell. Councilwoman Alfred Mae Drakeford was absent.

Towell said after the meeting that he voted against awarding the bid due to the project being funded by the city's hospitality tax. Towell had voted against the tax's creation last year.

"But if you're going to have a hospitality tax, it should be used to market Camden ... to get Camden's name out there, not for capital projects," said Towell.

AOS' contract will actually come to approximately $1.081 million due to nearly $13,000 worth of costs that were not initially included in the request for bids by the city, said City Manager Kevin Bronson.

The first issue has to do with the proposed purchase of two Wildfire Black Gum trees. Bronson said the city has intended to purchase the trees all along but failed to include them in the documentation sent to prospective bidders.

"While we handpicked the trees, they (AOS) will be responsible for purchasing and installing them," said Bronson.

He said the trees will cost $750 each, for a total extra cost of $1,500.

The remaining amount, approximately $11,370, is connected to a decision to use a 5-inch-thick concrete slab design for parking lot drives as opposed to 6-inch to 8-inch thick slabs used in the majority of past roadway projects. The recommendation was made by The Landplan Group South Inc., the firm hired by the city to design the Town Green.

"It was brought to our attention that to go to 5 inches we needed a stronger concrete than what was specified," Landplan wrote in a memorandum to Bronson that was included in Tuesday's agenda. "The contractor has requested an additional $3.15/SY (square yard) for the stronger 5 inch concrete."

Landplan said the new pricew would be $41.15/SY versus $54 to $74/SY paid in past projects.

"It was a typo, actually," explained Bronson, responding to a question from Councilman Pat Partin. "The pad strength was determined using the wrong set of numbers. We don't need for the parking lot drives to be as strong as regular roadways because the heaviest vehicles will be our sanitation trucks and delivery trucks."

Earlier in the discussion, Bronson had explained that the process to determine a winning bidder was an "intense" one. He said that when the city hired Landplan to design the Town Green, officials and firm representatives discussed the possibility that, due to the depressed economy, a large number of contractors might want to bid on the project.

"We wanted safeguards in place that would have us find a general contractor we could have confidence in -- that would enough investment in the project itself to stay at the table if any issues arose," said Bronson.

One of the criteria, for example, is that a prospective contractor would have to commit to doing 50 percent of the work themselves, with subcontractors doing the other 50 percent. Bronson indicated most contractors subcontract a higher percentage of work. In his memo, Bronson indicated AOS had said they would only have one subcontractor -- Utility Lines Construction Services -- for electrical work.

Bronson said the city received 23 inquiries for information packets about the proposed Town Green.

"Of those, 17 or 18 complete the packets and submitted them to us," Bronson said. "We went to Landplan to determine their eligibility."

Four were qualified: AOS, Three Oaks Contractors of Ravenel, Greenwall Construction of Myrtle Beach and Anson Construction Company of Charleston. Of the four, Anson Construction was unable to submit a bid by the city's deadline.

"We had the them come to Camden to see the East Back Lot and the water plant to see the stone we want to work with so they would know exactly what we were looking for," said Bronson.

Bronson also reported that a temporary parking lot will be set up near the intersection of Rutledge and Market streets next to Little Midget Restaurant. The city mailed out invitations Wednesday inviting to a ground breaking ceremony set for 1 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 29.

"I'm glad to see this project moving forward and being paid for by the hospitality tax," said Councilman Walter Long.

Bronson said the project was budgeted at $1.3 million and, with the AOS' bid coming under that budget, suggested leaving the remainder along in case of contingencies.

"Let's let this work through," said Bronson. "There were things we originally thought we couldn't afford in this phase. We could apply the remainder next year and be that far ahead of the game."

Bronson said the city has spent some $100,000 on the project thus far, mostly in fees to Duany Plater-Zyberk (DPZ). DPZ was hired initially in 2008 to come up with a vision plan for Camden. It was rehired in 2009 to begin assisting the city with the Town Green project and customizing its SmartCode zoning for downtown Camden.

"I want to thank council and staff for pulling this effort together," said Mayor Jeffrey Graham just ahead of the vote.

He said downtown merchants have already approached the city about their willingness to improve their rear facades as the Town Green project goes on.

In other business Tuesday, council:

* voted unanimously to pass second and final reading of an ordinance amending certain provisions of the city's sewer use ordinance;

* voted unanimously to pass second and final reading of an ordinance amending the definition of public nuisance in Chapter 90 of the city code;

* voted unanimously on first reading of an ordinance that, if passed on second reading, would accpet ownership of Chillingham Circle, Bomburgh Road, Lydford Lane, Edinburgh Castle Lane, Rye Lane and Carlisle Lane, all inside the Rutledge Place subdivision, as well as the storm drainage, water and sewer systems within the rights-of-way of those streets;

* unanimously resolved to urge all future mayors and council members to receive municipal government training;

* unanimously proclaimed the week of Sept. 17-23 as Constitution Week;

* unanimously proclaimed September as National Literacy Month;

* unanimously approved a $300 facade grant for the former home of The Daily Grind at 1012 Broad St.; and

* unanimously reappointed William Cox, Robert Herlong and Laurie Parks to the Camden Historic Landmarks Commission with terms ending Aug. 31, 2012.

Council will next meet in work session at 2:30 p.m. Sept. 23. Its next regular meeting will be at 8:30 a.m. Sept. 28. All meetings are open to the public.

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