The city of Pine Bluff plans to move forward with a project to extend the sewer system along U.S. 63/South Olive Street south of the Interstate 530 overpass, albeit on a smaller scale than originally planned.

The city of Pine Bluff plans to move forward with a project to extend the sewer system along U.S. 63/South Olive Street south of the Interstate 530 overpass, albeit on a smaller scale than originally planned.

The Pine Bluff City Council approved a resolution Monday allowing the city to contract with H-Excavating Inc. of Star City to complete the sewer extension project for an estimated cost of $307,285. Economic and Community Development Department Director Donald Sampson said the work is scheduled to begin during the first week in June.

“We want to encourage continued economic development and public health in what is a growing part of the city,” Sampson said.

The funds were originally intended to be a match to a $492,000 federal Environmental Protection Agency earmark allocated to the city in 2008. In March 2011, the earmark was rescinded when Congress passed compromise legislation to fund the federal government through the 2011 fiscal year.

Despite the loss of the federal earmark, Sampson said the sewer will be expanded as far as the remaining funds will allow. He did not have information with him Monday night on how far down U.S. 63 the project would be able to go with the $307,285. The project will focus on the west side of U.S. 63, he said.

The original scope of the project was to extend the sewer lines down to Ridgway Road. Design work has been done as far down as 73rd Avenue for possible future projects.

Sampson said his department would like to complete the full scope of the project — possibly by using funds from the five-eights-cent sales tax approved by voters in February 2011 — but the decision about funding would be up to the City Council. He said the total projected cost for the project is $629,000.

Finance Director Steve Miller said that the $307,285 needs to be spent this year because the funds come from bonds issued in 2009 with a three-year deadline to be spent.

When Congress eliminated the EPA grant, it was part of a group of grants that had been earmarked prior to 2009 that had not yet been paid out. The Pine Bluff earmark was the only Arkansas project impacted.

When the City Council was notified of the rescinded earmark in November 2011, Alderman Irene Holcomb suggested that the city waited too long to get started on the project and that contributed to it losing the money.

Mayor Carl A. Redus Jr. disagreed. He said that when the city received the grant, it did not have the matching funds needed to begin the project but has been diligently working on the needed preparations to begin work.