Fort Wayne City Utilities officials plan to look at how to get better deals on water main replacement work after bids on a large package of repairs came in well over budget Wednesday.
Only two construction companies bid on project that would replace a mile-long stretch of old cast-iron water mains along Parnell Avenue from Vance Avenue to St. Joe River Drive. The low bid of $759,030 came from C.A.T. Excavating and was nearly $200,000 over the city's estimated cost of $561,480 for the work.
"It looks like this is going to be a challenging chunk of work," said Matthew Wirtz, City Utilities deputy director for engineering. "We're still hoping we can get this one down a little bit...we'll take a look at it, see what we can do."
Obstacles along Parnell could make the project a costlier job for contractors, possibly explaining the higher bids, Wirtz said. High oil prices, reduced pipe manufacturing and scale-backs by construction companies also could drive costs up, City Utilities engineer Mike Kiester said.
Normally, replacing water mains costs the city about $100 per foot, Wirtz said. The low bid on the Parnell work would amount to 30 percent more, or $130 per foot.
If bids on main replacement work were to start regularly coming in so high, it could force City Utilities to reduce its goal of replacing nine miles of pipe each year, but Wirtz said unique factors made the Parnell job more expensive, and he does not think it will happen often.
Wirtz said the city likely would not accept the winning bid without first looking at ways to scale back the project, combine some of the work with other projects or simply put it off until later.
In the last 25 years, almost 100 main breaks have been reported along Parnell and the side streets that would also be part of the project, according to figures provided by the city.