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City trims manhole project

GLOVERSVILLE — City officials are considering awarding a $100,000 contract to adjust the heights of a portion of the sunken manhole covers in the city this year to level out dips in the roadways, with a larger volume of work to be completed in 2021.

The Common Council during the May 26 meeting approved a resolution to solicit bids for the height adjustment of 250 manholes across the city to raise the infrastructure to the level of the road’s surface.

The resolution followed a recommendation from Department of Public Works Director Christopher Perry who said awarding a contract to adjust the heights of manholes would have a greater impact on the condition of city streets and be more cost effective than awarding a contract for the replacement of catch basins as the city did in 2019 at a cost of $4,875 each for 90 catch basins.

During a special meeting of the Common Council on Tuesday, Mayor Vincent DeSantis sought input from the council on potentially reducing the scope of the manhole adjustment contract for this year to bring the cost down to approximately $100,000 as the city looks to limit spending until the full financial impact of the coronavirus is known.

Following a recent Finance Committee meeting, DeSantis said he spoke with the low bidder for the contract, Stephen Miller General Contractor of Gloversville, about doing a limited number of adjustments this year with any remaining manholes from the originally bid 250 to be completed in 2021. Miller had submitted a bid of $290,250 for the entire project.

According to DeSantis, Miller is open to completing the work over the course of two years, although the contractor stated that all materials needed for the entire project would have to be ordered up front.

Ultimately, DeSantis said Miller returned a quote of $101,604.24 for the adjustment of 32 manholes this year and the purchase of all materials for all of the 250 manholes that will eventually be adjusted.

But after talking to Perry, DeSantis asked the council if they would consider upping the spending for work this year to approximately $150,000 to allow the city to contract out adjustments for roughly 50 manholes.

Perry noted that he has identified 323 manholes across the city that have sunken below the level of the roadway by two inches or more that need to be adjusted. East Fulton Street has the largest quantity of sunken manholes with a total of 57.

By increasing the work completed under contract to roughly 50 manholes, Perry suggested the DPW could complete the remaining adjustments needed on East Fulton Street to address the biggest single problem area for the city this year.

The city earlier this year acquired a manhole cutter to allow the DPW to complete work adjusting manhole heights in-house as needed. When asked by the council how many units DPW crews could complete adjustments on at one time, Perry said that workers would likely be able to address four manholes over the course of two days in keeping with industry standards, completing any excavation work the first day and filling in the roadway the following day.

Given the relative speed with which work could be completed in-house, 2nd Ward Councilman Arthur Simonds signaled his preference not to exceed $100,000 based on the uncertain financial situation the city is facing due to the coronavirus.

“I think if they can do 35 and you can do 15 in a couple weeks period of time, three weeks period of time, I think that would take care of the project personally,” said Simonds. “We can afford $100,000 and that’s all we can afford in my mind.”

But 3rd Ward Councilwoman Elizabeth “Betsy” Batchelor questioned whether DPW crews would be able to fit the work in among other normal activities.

“I worry a little bit about stretching DPW so that it can’t do the tasks that we’re expecting them to do,” said Batchelor. “I think we also need to ask you Chris if you think that you can fit it into your schedule of tasks.”

Perry agreed it could be a challenge as DPW crews are currently focusing on replacing catch basins and adjusting the heights of manholes on streets that will be resurfaced in the coming months.

Rather than trying to address the remaining manholes on East Fulton Street that would not be completed by contractors, Perry said DPW crews could potentially focus on the manholes located near the four corners, the intersections of Main Street and Fulton Street, to ensure adjustments are complete before work commences in the area later this year on the city’s pedestrian safety project for which the city received a $660,000 federal grant award in 2018.

Both 1st Ward Councilwoman Marcia Weiss and 6th Ward Councilman Wrandy Siarkowski voiced supporting for capping spending on the manhole adjustment project this year at $100,000.

“We don’t want to overspend,” said Weiss, pointing to declines in the city’s tax revenues in recent months due to the state stay at home order and the possibility that the state will cut aid to the city later this year as the state faces a budget shortfall related to the impacts of the coronavirus.

The council concluded the discussion without making a final decision during the special meeting, planning to pick up the conversation during the next regular meeting on Tuesday when the council is expected to consider a resolution to award a contract for the manhole adjustments.

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