FREMONT - The national economic crisis may end up saving Fremont taxpayers millions of dollars when it comes to the construction of an EPA-mandated water reservoir.
City officials began accepting bids last week for the first phase of construction of the 146-acre facility, which will provide a permanent sanitary water supply for Fremont residents.
The Ohio EPA is requiring the reservoir because of the city's history of exceeding dangerous levels of nitrates in the Sandusky River.
Construction cost is estimated at $20 million.
But Fremont Mayor Terry Overmyer said the lowest construction bids for phase one of the project were more affordable than expected.
City Engineer John Kuzma estimated phase one of the project, which includes the actual construction of the reservoir, would cost about $7.8 million.
"We had 18 bidders, and we had 11 bidders under the engineer's estimate. That's pretty good," Mr. Overmyer said.
The lowest bid was about $5.2 million, much less than city officials anticipated, he said.
"That means so far, we're get-ting a good deal. We've got another phase to go. .•.•. The second phase hasn't been bid yet. If this first bid holds true, right now we're on a pace of about $2 million to $4 million in savings."
The lowest bid came from Trucco Construction Inc. of Powell, Ohio, a small city about 22 miles north of Columbus.
Mr. Overmyer said the economy is likely the reason for the anticipated savings.
"We're in a tough economy right now, and a lot of people are looking for work," he said. "My guess right now is these people are bidding low to keep their employees employed. Anytime we can get a good bang for our buck, our citizens are getting a good break."
Mark Trucco, CEO of Trucco Construction, said Mr. Overmyer is right, and construction projects both public and private are hard to come by in the economic climate.
"I would say business is probably down in the neighborhood of 30 to 40 percent," he said.
City officials still must ensure each bid was legitimate.
"If one of the two or three of the lowest bids didn't do something right, we're still going to get a good price," Mr. Overmyer said.
The second phase of the project, which also is estimated to cost about $7.8 million, will include building the piping that will bring water from the Sandusky River to the reservoir and from the reservoir to the city's water intake facilities.
The mayor said bidding will begin next year.
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