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A bit of a break

Sewer costs are heading down

Lake Oswegans appear to be getting a bit of a break on the projected $100 million cost of repairing the city's sewers.

A trio of public contracts recently set sewer construction in motion. Though the $5.6 million in sewer-related expenses approved by the Lake Oswego City Council Dec. 2 and Tuesday are a small part of the total job, savings of nearly $2 million have already been achieved.

As construction begins - work on sewer pipes on Kelok and Bryant roads will start in January - the actual cost of building new sewers is falling below original engineering estimates.

While the economic recession lowers costs for labor, materials and gasoline, project organizers say market conditions favor public works projects as companies offer increasingly low bids to get work.

The falling price of steel, needed to anchor the city's buoyant sewer pipeline to the floor of Oswego Lake, also appears to be lowering costs.

Both circumstances are good news in a city that will kick off 2009 with the first of six sewer construction projects that make up the Lake Oswego Interceptor Sewer project. Construction on city sewers is planned to last through 2011.

The Lake Oswego Interceptor Sewer project replaces an undersized pipe now on pilings in Oswego Lake. Once completed, it will carry effluent from the west side of the city east through Oswego Lake to a treament plant on the Willamette River.

The project also involves a number of smaller sewer improvements, including new sewers on Bryant and Kelok roads that replace pipes now running through the Oswego Lake canals.

When work begins next month, construction on sewers on Kelok and Bryant roads will cost only 34 percent of project estimates.

All 15 bids on the job were well below the engineer's estimate of $2.8 million. The highest bid undercut that amount by nearly $1 million. The $947,439 contract that eventually was awarded to Canby Excavating, Inc. will save $1.9 million.

Ben Burgi, a field superintendent at Canby Excavating, said lower costs for supplies and materials should still help Canby see a small profit.

'We save where we can and hope that everthing we figured on comes to pass so we end up being profitable,' Burgi said, who added the tight market does make it difficult to be as profitable or as fully manned as the company would like.

But the competitive nature of the contracting market and the declining cost of steel - a $928,641 steel contract with Cascade Rigging approved Tuesday was 12 percent lower than anticipated costs - could compound savings on the Lake Oswego Interceptor Sewer project as construction pushes forward.

'It's really unpredictable but the thing we know for sure is we made the right decision in ending the CMGC contract (during negotiations with Barnard Construction Co. in July),' said Mayor Judie Hammerstad.

The decision to cut ties with Barnard - a Montana-based firm originally eyed as a project manager - allowed the city to break the Lake Oswego Interceptor Sewer project into smaller jobs. Those jobs are now being competitively bid in smaller pieces.

'We certainly didn't expect the economy to tank but even so I think we are still in a better position going out to competitive bids,' Hammerstad said.

The city will announce a list of pre-approved contractors today that will be eligible to offer bids on the lake-full portion of construction on the sewer interceptor. That work begins in May 2009 and continues through September 2010.

Lake Oswego officials are also soliciting bids for stainless steel manholes.

Brown and Caldwell, the city's long-time consultant on the Lake Oswego Interceptor Sewer project, will manage and inspect related construction through a $3,720,348 contract amendment awarded Dec. 2.