Butler County road projects delayed, some repaving may be cancelled

Several Butler County road projects will be delayed and some street repaving may be cancelled after the county received bids too high for its budget. MICHAEL D. PITMAN / STAFF

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Several Butler County road projects will be delayed and some street repaving may be cancelled after the county received bids too high for its budget. MICHAEL D. PITMAN / STAFF

Several Butler County road projects will be delayed and some street repaving may be cancelled after the county received bids too high for its budget.

“The whole bid process is built in to protect the taxpayer. You come up with an estimate and companies bid on on it and if it’s way too high, you have to reject it,” Butler County spokesman Chris Petrocy said, adding the bids have to be within five percent of the final estimate. “You keep throwing out the bids until you get one that works.”

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The preliminary, general estimate for fixing 14 miles of township roads with a “black mat” surface was $468,687. The county received two bids — $881,080 and $936,199.

Another project to fix another 14 miles of county and township roads with “chip seal” was estimated at $754,216. The only bid received was for $998,469.

Part of the issue with the high bids is the price of liquid asphalt used to coat the roads went up about 11 percent last month, Butler County Engineer Greg Wilkens said.

“That’s a major, major component of both our black mat and chip and seal contract,” he said. “I think that has to be a part of it and the other thing is there could be a lot of work out there.”

Wilkens said if the bids are still high when they come back at the end of the month, then Butler County townships will have to reassess how many roads they want worked on.

Wilkens’ office handles the bid process for both county and township road projects — the bigger the project the better price — but the townships are responsible to pay their own way.

“The reality of what work the townships and we can do because the price is higher is another story,” he said. “You are doing this work based on this price and you’re going to do these amount of streets based on the square yards because this amount of square yards equals this dollar. Now if this dollar is up 30 percent, I’ve got to take 30 percent of the roads off.”

Petrocy said the projects will now be delayed about a month to a month and a half — if the new bids are acceptable — so work won’t start until late June.

“When you do have a bid that comes in too high and you have to rebid it, it postpones the beginning of work, that’s absolutely an issue,” he said, but added none of the roads scheduled for work are “so beat up that a month delay is going to make that much of a difference.”

Cities are not bound by state law like counties are — the five percent threshold — in accepting bids for projects. In Monroe however Public Works Director Dan Arthur said one of their bids was almost double the estimate so they have rebid it.

“If the numbers do come in bad, we had eight streets originally that we were going to pave, we’ll have to pave less streets if that’s the case,” Arthur said.

He said the prices came in so high they split off the paving and paving work and rebid the concrete portion. Arthur was at a conference this week so he did not have exact numbers on the bids. He also extended the completion date for the project. He said they ended up calling contractors and asking them to bid the project and were told if they had more time they might be able to get to it.

Arthur agreed with Wilkens that supply and demand is likely partially in play this year.

“I believe it is because there is an over abundance of construction work out there right now and not enough contractors to complete the work,” he said. “Also, they had to bid work low to get projects for several years, and now they don’t and can use this to recoup some of their lost monies.”

Middletown has a number of paving and street reconstruction projects totalling $7.8 million going on this year and those bids came in seven to 24 percent below the engineer’s estimate. But the sidewalk, curb and gutter program — which is partially paid for by the residents who were ordered to fix faulty concrete — was seven percent higher than the estimate.

RELATED: Middletown residents told to fix faulty sidewalks

According to a staff report the bid came in at $372,966 and the residents will pick up $242,208. About 30 property owners will see bills $10 to $577 more than they were originally notified and 77 others will see slight decreases. City Engineer Rob Nicolls said the scope of work on each property varies, and some parts of the bid like the curbs were higher than estimated and other portions like driveway aprons were lower.

As for why his city saw lower than estimated bids, he thinks it’s because their projects have a lot parts to them and Butler County’s were strictly paving projects.

“Those are specifically almost 100 percent paving type work items,” he said. “Whereas our projects like the one for Jurgensen probably was the most susceptible to that kind of thing, but there was also concrete work and cement stabilization work, so those other work items may have offset the increased asphalt price.”

Hamilton’s Public Works Director Rich Engle said they do not use black mat or crack seal methods for their streets and their road project bids didn’t come in high. He said they also believe there is more work than contractors can handle so clients pay the price.

“Contractors are just buried, I think the city of Cincinnati bid out a lot of work either late last year or early this year that’s starting to impact the concrete contractors and the paving contractors,” Engle said. “There’s only really two significant paving contractors in the area, that’s Barrett and Jurgensen. If they get buried with work then you don’t have much opportunity for other contractors.”

Ben Mann, Fairfield’s engineer said they were planning to spend $1.5 million resurfacing roads this year but the bids came in just under $1.38 million, so now they can put some additional options back into the projects. Like everybody else he said the contractors’ work load is driving prices and the early bird got the worm in Fairfield’s bidding process.

RELATED: Fairfield embarks on major road work

They opened resurfacing bids on April 3 and he had two other projects that were bid in January and March.

“There’s a lot of work out there, more than there has been in the last few years but with the same number of contractors,” Mann said. “So as it gets later in the year they are just booked up.”

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