FORT WAYNE – Leftover stimulus money allowed the city to expand one of its sewer separation projects to include a new water main and street.
The Fort Wayne Board of Public Works on Wednesday approved a $467,348 increase to a contract with All Star Construction to separate sewers near Parnell and Crescent avenues. The new total price of the work is nearly $1.3 million.
Mike Kiester, with City Utilities engineering, said the project originally was to construct new storm sewers in the area to reduce sewer overflow into the river. The work would also help prevent basement backups for 230 nearby homes.
The city, however, had extra money to spend thanks to the federal stimulus program. The city received $5 million for five projects, but Kiester said the work for those projects ended up costing just more than $4 million.
This provided additional money for work, but he said it had to be tied to one of the existing stimulus project contracts. The All Star contract was expanded to include replacing a cast-iron water main along Kenwood Avenue from the 1930s. In addition, he said the money allowed the city to reconstruct Kenwood from Kentucky Avenue and Crescent. These two additions added about $400,000 to the project.
Kiester said the original contract included unit prices for water pipe work and street reconstruction, so the city was able to use those to expand the contracts scope. He said the extra work will prove a great value and benefit for residents.
Billing system exam
The board also approved an $88,000 contract with EMA, a Minnesota company, to begin looking at a new billing system for City Utilities.
The update is needed to replace an aging system to improve reliability and customer service, according to spokeswoman Mary Jane Slaton.
The current system was installed in the early 1990s and has experienced sporadic failures that require customer service associates to track all transactions by hand – even writing paper receipts. While she said these problems typically last only for an hour or two, they make clear the need to update the system before a larger problem occurs.
In addition, the current billing system does not allow utility staff to take credit card payments directly by phone or over the Internet. Customers can pay their bill online with a credit card through Gov-Pay for a $3.50 convenience fee for bills up to $100. The fee is 3.5 percent of payments more than $100. Over the phone, customers make credit card payments through ChoicePay for a charge of $3.95 for payments up to $300.
Slaton said it was too soon to say what the new billing system would cost because EMA would help determine what system the city wants to install.
The groups work will be comparable to the consultant the city used to help write its new garbage and recycling contract. The firm has worked for hundreds of other utilities throughout the country, she said.
The exam is expected to take about four months, and the new billing system is expected to be installed in about two years.