Sewer bids not as good as hoped

By Steve Estes

Officials from the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority opened bids last Thursday from contractors interested in building the primary treatment plant for the Cudjoe Regional Wastewater System and the inner island collection system.

And the results weren’t as encouraging as had been hoped.

Engineering estimates put the projected cost of the treatment plant at $18 million. The low bid opened last week was actually higher than that at $21.8 million.

“I’m not sure why the plant came in so much higher than anticipated, “said County Administrator Roman Gastesi. “I’m sure we’ll get an explanation once the summary is finished.”

FKAA also opened bids for the construction of the inner island portion of the Cudjoe Regional. The inner island portion covers users from Upper Sugarloaf Key to Summerland Key, about 3,500 of the anticipated 8,800 users of the system at completion.

Engineers had estimated $42 million for that portion of the regional system, and actually got bids lower than estimates at $35.5 million.

That is a savings of about $3.5 million overall, with the estimated $90 million for the outer islands portion yet to be solidified by bids.

That portion of the system will be done by design/build criteria where the winning bidder will finish the design of the system before they put the pipes in the ground to service the outer islands areas, which include Lower Sugarloaf Key, Ramrod Key, the Torch Keys and Big Pine Key.

“We can only hope we get a bigger savings on the outer islands system than we have seen so far,” said Gastesi.

Some officials believe that the higher bids than anticipated may be the result of the way the systems are bid by FKAA, which uses very detailed technical specifications so that their systems match across the county and repair and replacement work is eased in the future.

Some also believe that the hybrid nature of the Cudjoe Regional may have driven up the final bids. The Cudjoe Regional will be a hybrid between a standard gravity system and a low-pressure grinder pump system, the latter using a smaller pipe diameter and, according to FKAA engineers, cheaper to service the more outlying areas where density of population is more scarce.

“I’m just disappointed in the amounts,” said Gastesi.

The estimates for the system were $150 million, but based on what officials had seen from Islamorada, they were hopeful they could realize a savings of $20 or $25 million over the final estimates because of the sagging economy and the large nature of the projects.

“There was a sufficient number of bidders and there were no ridiculously high or ridiculously low bids so we got what we were going to get,” said Gastesi.

He said he hopes to see a savings over estimates when outer island bids are opened in a couple of weeks.

The county plans on using $20 million in unspent infrastructure sales tax money to jump start the Cudjoe regional system, along with about $40 million in assessment charges to eventual users of the systems. The state has agreed to grant $30 million from the first $50 million of a grant approved four years ago to go toward the Cudjoe Regional. The other $20 million will go to Islamorada.

The remainder of the costs to build the system will come from the sales tax extension approved by voters during the November general election cycle.

“We are already working on ways to restructure our existing debt on sales tax bonds to be able to borrow the money as we need it to move continuously forward on the Cudjoe Regional,” said Gastesi.

The county doesn’t yet have the state money in hand, although it has been promised if FKAA has contracts signed by February.

“The state bonds haven’t sold yet, so we’re still waiting for that check,” said Gastesi.

No Comments »

Leave a Reply