The Pine Bluff Wastewater Utility Commission on Monday voted to hire a Louisiana construction company to build the Phillips Road Pump Station.

Craig Johnson, consulting engineer for Crist Engineers Inc., presented commission members with information concerning bids received on June 5 from construction companies interested in taking on the project. The wastewater utility commission hired Crist Engineers in March 2017 at a cost of $380,000 to design a pump station between Hazel Street and Taylor Phillips Road and to provide construction administration services.

A total of four companies placed bids for the work, including Haren Construction Company, J.S. Haren Company, Max Foote Construction Company and McInnis Brothers Construction. Each company bid a base amount of $3,874,000, $5,891,740.22, $3,327,417 and $3,149,999, respectively.

McInnis Brothers Construction, who are familiar with the area, expressed interest in acquiring local manpower to carry out the project, Johnson said. A contract between the two companies is scheduled to be created this week and will be valid for one year upon signing.

Johnson said services are expected to start up around this time next year.

“There will not be a rate increase,” said Ken Johnson, general manager of Pine Bluff Wastewater Utility, in regards to the rate customers currently pay for their services and how the Phillips Road Pump Station will affect them. Instead, a rate increase that took effect in 2015 is funding the project.

In other construction-related news, Suncoast Infrastructure Inc., the company responsible for performing cured-in-place pipe repairs for Pine Bluff Wastewater Utility, was scheduled to begin work on June 2 but were a no-show for the first week of repairs.

Cured-in-place pipe, or CIPP, repairs prevent large-scale pipes from leaks and infiltration by placing a lining inside of sewer pipes using Perma-liner and MaxLiner installers. The process requires no digging which significantly lowers costs, and is environmentally-friendly.

After pushing back starting efforts for a week, Suncoast Infrastructure Inc. began completing three-day work weeks that spanned 30 to 40 hours between Monday mid-mornings to Thursday afternoons with little noticeable progression over the past few weeks.

“I don’t like having to push contractors,” Ken Johnson said.

Suncoast Infrastructure Inc. contacted Pine Bluff Wastewater Utility prior to the commission meeting to inform them of some equipment issues they are currently handling that would result in the construction crew having to delay Monday’s start time. Commission members believed there was a strong chance the company would not show altogether which will further slowdown progress.

“Excuses are unacceptable,” Ken Johnson said.

He told commission members that legal repercussions would ensue if the company is unable to fulfill their 120-day contract requirements by Oct. 1, as originally discussed, with documentation from previous projects to support claims against Suncoast Infrastructure Inc.

Ken Johnson also shared concern for the current relationship status between Pine Bluff Wastewater Utility and Watson Chapel Water Association.

Pine Bluff Wastewater Utility received a fax from Watson Chapel Water Association on May 31 notifying them of the immediate termination of sewer fee collection for services provided by the utility.

Ken Johnson was able to secure a 90-day extension for the cut-off notice, which will be dedicated to determining the reasoning behind the sudden termination of collections, and find reasonable solutions to the problem and salvage the agreement that has been in place since 1982.

According to Ken Johnson, a board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at Watson Chapel Water on Sulphur Springs Road where he hopes to work out the situation. He has taken his concerns up with Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington, who said she plans to be in attendance on Tuesday evening.

While Pine Bluff Wastewater Utility faced problems surrounding their recent business and construction ventures, they took a moment to celebrate receiving the award for Excellence in Management Silver Recognition that will be presented on July 24 during the NACWA Utility Leadership Conference.

This award honors the utility’s commitment to sustainable, successful programs that exemplify the attributes of an effectively managed utility.

The utility also managed to stay under budget for the month of May, according to financial reports.

Total revenues for the month equaled $588,330.98 and breaks down as follows: Liberty Utilities and Hwy 63 customers, $495,291.87; Watson Chapel Water, $3,274.97; Hardin Water, $4,541.93; Industrial Surcharge, $55,579.47; Wholesale – City of White Hall, $19, 423.28; Special Purpose – Waste Management, $8,050.00; Other revenue, $1600.00; Net Non-operating Income, $569.46.

Expenses came to $563,625.60 for May with the following contributing to the total: Collections and Prevention Maintenance, $101,543.50; Pump Stations, $63,468.43; Environmental Compliance, $78,290.25; Technical Services, $15,256.07; Customer Accounting, $14,057.39; Administration, $129,107.16; Taxes, $15,922.27; Capital Expenditures, $116,000.00; Other Deductions, $29,980.53.

The utility accumulated $520,475.11 in cash receipts from United Water, and $838.60 in customer write-offs for the month. Collection of accounts previously written off as uncollectible for the month was $2,645.16.