By Steve Plunkett

Gulf Stream awarded an almost $13 million contract to do its water main, street and drainage project in the Core District and at the same time began talking about borrowing $7 million to complete its 10-year capital improvement plan.

Digging for the 18-month project could begin as soon as March. Residents will be invited to a town meeting at the end of the month or in early February to get a more precise schedule.

The $12,998,325 bid from Miami-based Roadway Construction LLC was almost $2.5 million higher than anticipated. When the 10-year plan was approved in 2018, the total cost was estimated at $10.5 million. Still to be done after the Core work are similar efforts in Place Au Soleil and the south end of town.

But under a plan created by town Finance Officer Mark Bymaster with help from former Commissioners Paul Lyons Jr. and Thom Smith, the town can take out the loan and repay it without raising property taxes.

“Mark has allowed me to sleep the last two nights. I’ve been so worried about this,” Mayor Scott Morgan said.

Commissioners decided on Dec. 8 that accepting the $13 million bid was better than rebidding the project. Only one other firm responded to Gulf Stream’s request — and its bid was for $16.4 million.

Rebecca Travis of Baxter & Woodman Consulting Engineers described today’s bidding environment.

“Because there’s a lot of funding available, pretty much every city and town has got projects out there for bid and the contractors can be very selective. And consequently, their prices have been higher,” Travis said. “We have instances where … we maybe get two at the most bidders. In the past we maybe would get five, six, seven bidders. Now we’re getting two, sometimes one, sometimes no bidders. So I think it’s fortunate so to speak that we’ve gotten two on this project.”

Town Manager Greg Dunham said it was too much of a risk to rebid the work.

“We might not get any bids. The city of Delray Beach just bid a large parks and rec project that included a new building and associated parks and rec facilities. I think the job was something around $6 or $7 million. They didn’t receive any bids for that job,” Dunham said.

“Or that you wouldn’t get a higher bid,” Morgan added.

“Correct, that would be the other risk involved is that OK, the numbers are out there. And so we get new bids and they’re all higher than the ones that we got,” Dunham said.

Assistant Town Attorney Trey Nazzaro said the Florida League of Cities could help facilitate a loan and cited a recent example of a town getting a 15-year loan at 7% interest.

Bymaster used those numbers to figure out how much money to borrow to enable Gulf Stream to finish the capital improvements with $4 million left in reserves.

“We wanted to keep a scenario where the growth was static throughout the project and at the end of the project still be able to have a healthy reserve for future endeavors,” he said.

Gulf Stream has borrowed money only once: $2.43 million in 2012 to get its underground utilities project started.

Dunham said the town would take the loan in September or October.

“We really wouldn’t need to do this probably until the fall because we’ve already budgeted for this year’s expenses,” he said.

Nazzaro was still working on possibly switching the town’s drinking water supplier from Delray Beach to Boynton Beach. That is expected to cost Gulf Stream $2 million up front, which it would also borrow, but Nazzaro said residents’ water bills would pay for that loan without the town’s having to raise taxes.

“It’s unfortunate we have both of these big projects coming in so expensively at the same time, but my kudos to Mark and to Paul and to staff for working this out in a way that we can do both,” Morgan said.

Travis said Roadway Construction will spend most of January setting up for construction. Morgan asked her to schedule a meeting for town residents, especially those in the Core, in the last week of January or first week of February.

“They’ve been hearing a lot of rumors about the project. No one really knows what to expect, when to expect it,” the mayor said.

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