The Richmond Register

July 24, 2013

City awaits word on funds for Water Street drainage project

By Sarah Hogsed
Register News Writer

RICHMOND — A downtown storm drainage project city officials initially thought would be complete by November may not get started until late fall if additional federal grant funds are approved.

The Water Street project was put on hold in early May when the lowest construction bid came in nearly $1.4 million more than the $3.8 million allocated for the work.

The money came from a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant that was matched by state and local funds.

Project design engineer Harsha Wijesiri, president of Integrated Engineering, said the city has applied for an additional $4.7 million in grant funds, and it will take at least 60 days for the request to be reviewed.

“I think it will get approved by FEMA, but there are no guarantees,” Wijesiri said during a project meeting Wednesday morning at City Hall.

Part of the request for additional funds involved providing data that showed quantifiable financial loses caused by flooding over the past 20 years in the Water Street area.

“The problem with the Water Street project is we don’t have any documented losses,” Wijesiri said.

However, by working with FEMA representatives, Wijesiri said the data that could be provided will likely be sufficient to get the additional funds.

Wijesiri assured the attendees, which included city and contractor representatives, that the Richmond project is No. 1 on FEMA’s list of priorities for the grant money.

However, materials can’t be ordered and construction started until the additional $4.7 million is granted. Then it will take at least four weeks to get the materials in.

Richmond Mayor Jim Barnes asked Kerry Smith with Smith Contractors if starting construction in November would be feasible. Smith Contractors submitted the lowest bid for the project.

“It’s fine with us,” Smith said.

Barnes was particularly concerned that winter weather may interfere with the portion of the project that involves cutting a deep trench across Main Street between CVS Pharmacy and Collins Street. Main Street is projected to be closed in that area for about two weeks.

“We’ll have to schedule the best we can based on weather forecasts,” Smith said. “... We’ll hustle across there as best we can.”

Another concern was whether the contractor and suppliers would be willing to hold their bid prices for longer than the 90 days already agreed upon. If not, Barnes said the project may have to be rebid.

Smith and other company representatives involved in the project said at the meeting they’d be willing to hold their prices at least another 60 days.

Sarah Hogsed can be reached at or 624-6694.