Titusville City Council is planning to commit a large portion of its next allotment of Community Development Block Grant money toward replacing the South Perry Street Bridge with a pedestrian crossing.
As discussed at Tuesday’s meeting of council, a total of $171,341 of the 2019 CDBG money will be used to replace the bridge once it is demolished. The CDBG program is a federal funding system that pays for projects that benefit low-to-moderate income communities.
Although the money is labeled as being for 2019, it will not be received until 2020. City Manager Larry Manross explained that CDBG money for a certain year is always given out in the following year.
Previously, the city had allocated a portion of its 2018 CDBG money for the purpose of replacing the bridge. However, after it was later announced that the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation would not tear down the bridge until 2022, the money was redirected toward a separate project to raise the roof of the Titusville Fire Department garages. This was done because CDBG funds have a three-year time limit in which they must be spent, meaning the demolition would have fallen outside of the 2018 CDBG restraints.
Manross said he anticipates the $171,341 would be able to pay for the construction of the new bridge, though said additional costs may occur. This includes possible needed repairs to the abutments of the existing bridge and surveys of the land where the new bridge will be placed.
The South Perry Street Bride was the source of discussion during the public comment section of the meeting. Titusville resident Ginger McCann asked whether the city had looked into ADM Welding & Fabrication, a Warren-based business. According to McCann, the company has constructed temporary bridges before, including vehicular crossings.
Councilman Don Fraizer said he hadn’t but promised that he would do so at McCann’s suggestion. However, Frazier advised her that he had previously researched a steel bridge designed to replace the South Perry Street Bridge but was unsuccessful in convincing the Crawford County Commissioners to fund the structure.
“The commissions just said they didn’t have the money for it,” Frazier said.
The theoretical bridge was projected to cost between $1 million to $1.3 million based on preliminary estimates, according to Frazier, though not taking in account possible further expenses such as abutment repairs. Frazier said he and Manross presented the project to the commissioners last year, either in September or October.
Although the city could theoretically purchase the new bridge, Frazier said that would place the responsibility of taking care of the crossing on the city, meaning having to pay for future repairs and inspections.
Regardless, McCann encouraged the council members to look into ADM Welding & Fabrication.
“They may come in with something different,” she said. “Anything at this point (will help).”
Besides the bridge replacement, the city’s 2019 CDBG application also calls for $73,433 for general demolition and clearance of blighted properties, and $53,730 that will be paid to the city as administrative fees. The administrative allotment is a requirement under the CDBG program, according to Manross. This brings the total amount applied for to $298,504.
Council will vote on whether to approve the application at their next meeting.
The South Perry Street Bridge was closed indefinitely on Aug. 14, 2017, after several structural deficiencies were found during a routine inspection. The closure came shortly after PennDOT announced the demolition of the bridge on June 22, 2017, based on a study that declared the bridge redundant, preventing it from receiving many forms of grant money.
The bridge was first constructed in 1881 by the Morse Bridge Company of Youngstown, Ohio.
The demolition of the bridge has been a hot-button topic in the city for the past few years. On Oct. 8, Crawford County Commissioner Candidate Dan Hunter held a public meeting in Titusville specifically focused on the crossing, and plans to hold further ones at a future date.
Fire department bids
Council is poised to award a contract for the raising of the Titusville Fire Department’s garage roof at their next meeting.
Manross announced that the city had received four bids for the work. The lowest bid came from CBF Contracting Inc., a company based out of Sligo, Pennsylvania. The company gave a base bid for $232,200.
However, Manross said it was discovered that the ceiling of the fire department was made out a special material that was expensive. The city manager asked each company to calculate a bid cost to have the new roof installed with a steel ceiling instead of the special material.
With the steel ceiling, CBF’s bid lowered by $14,486, to a total of $217,714. This still put it as the lowest bidder.
The other bids came from Associated Contractors Inc., of Meadville; Gem Building Contractors & Developers Inc., of New Castle; and Hudson Construction Inc, of Hermitage.
Gem put in the second lowest bid, with a base amount of $234,743 and a deduction of $5,000. Hudson Construction bid $259,000, but oddly enough added money in its bid involving the steel ceiling, raising it by $6,000 to $265,000. Manross said he couldn’t explain why Hudson would raise the amount using the less expensive material, but confirmed that was how the bid came in.
Associated Contractors had the largest bid, standing at $599,069 at a base amount, with a deduction of $27,500 for the steel roof.
As the city originally only allocated $146,000 of 2018 CDBG money to the roof project, Manross said the city would have to divert additional grant money for the project. He said the city would pull from the 2018 CDBG money set aside for general demolition, which originally amounted to $88,000 when the city made the application for the funds.
Manross said he would look into ways to cut down on expenses of the project, but admitted there wasn’t much that could be done to lessen costs by a “big dollar” amount.
One method of making the project cheaper is by using non-fire proof trusses. According to Manross, it was assumed that fire proof trusses were required for the project by the fire code, but he was later informed by a Pennsylvania building inspector that they were not needed. As fire proof trusses cost more money and take longer to make, not using them could both lessen the expense and make the project completed faster.
Manross said the contractors will have 60 days to finish the roof replacement, but council could allow for extensions in case of bad weather halting work for periods of time. Should the project take longer without an allowance from the city, the contractor will pay a fee for each extra day, which Manross said would amount to around $500 a day.
The city manager wants to get the project started relatively soon.
“We’re hoping (to get it done) before snow flies, but we’re running out of time,” Manross said.
The raising of the roof will allow the Titusville Fire Department to park its 1993 Simon-Duplex tower ladder truck inside of its garages. The vehicle, which was donated earlier this year by Lower Macungie Township, is too tall to get through the entrance to the garages by 1 foot, 6 inches. The project will replace the current flat roof of the department with a pointed one, allowing for the entrance to be enlarged as well.
Other meeting news
Members of City Council received the preliminary version of the 2020 Titusville City budget at the meeting, allowing them to get their first looks at the document. While Manross said he wanted to give council members the chance to look over the budget before discussing it in finer detail, he confirmed that total revenues and expenditures are set at $10,296,000 across all funds, and that no tax increase is planned. The budget, in its preliminary form, marks a more than $1 million increase from the 2019 budget, which was set at $8,233,969. Manross said the reason for the large jump is because the city is paying off the remaining $2 million left on a loan from a sewer project from the 1990s. The public will be able to view the preliminary version of the budget in full following the next city council meeting.
The next meeting of Titusville City Council will take place on Oct. 22, at 6 p.m., at the Towne Square building, at the second floor boardroom.
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