Council irked about park sidewalk project

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Not being informed

By David Meade

A sidewalk project in Mineral Spring Park was the topic of considerable discussion during the Williamston Town Council meeting Monday.

Councilmembers Rockey Burgess, David Harvell and Otis Scott all expressed concerns that council was not told about the project and that funding was not approved prior to it being done. Mayor Mack Durham asked council to amend the agenda to discuss funding for the project after it was already completed last week. The funding will come from the town’s Hospitality Tax fund, which requires a vote of council for any expenditures made from it.

Mayor Durham said the project was part of a series of projects in the park and there was some extra work done due to a “musunderstanding” with the contractor.

According to the mayor, the original project was supposed to provide a new sidewalk from the covered wooden bridge over Big Creek to the sidewalk on Gossett St. and include repairs to a section of sidewalk on Gossett St. The sidewalk had sections that were uneven and cracked causing a hazard.

One bid on that project was $9,500 the mayor said. The contractor doing the work included five projects in the park at a cost of $10,500.

The five projects undertaken included providing a base for the Gist Rifle monument which was recently relocated, $500; sidewalk repair on Gossett St., $1000; new sidewalk from Gossett St. to gazebo and wooden bridge, $4000; sidewalk from bridge to road in park, $3500 and a new connecting sidewalk from the road to the Springhouse, $1,500.

Mayor Durham said all five projects were completed at the cost which “was just slightly more” than the original project. He said he was “happy to have the work completed.”

During discussion, Councilman Burgess said, “I don’t think anyone on council didn’t want the work done. I thought it was a fair value for the money spent.”

He added that the town’s purchasing policy requires council approval and that he had not seen written bids and “had no idea it was even being done until after the work was done.”

Burgess said he wants the town to get the most value for the money but added, “We should stay within our guidelines.” He said council approving the budget is “our responsibility” and urged the mayor to strictly follow the purchasing guidelines.

Mayor Durham said the original sidewalk project from the bridge to Gossett and the Gossett St. sidewalk repairs was to be $3,000 but due to a “misunderstanding with the contractor”, the additional sidewalk work was already underway. According to the mayor, a portion of the old sidewalk was taken up and boards were positioned for the new sidewalk.

There was some discussion about where the funds will come from and other budget expenditures.

Councilman Scott said on projects like this, “Council should approve it before getting the work done.”

Councilman Harvell agreed stating council should have been informed of the project and voted on the funding for it.

Referring to the projects that were completed, Durham said “I had no idea we would accomplish this much.” He said he expects the town to come in as much as $200,000 under budget for the 2013-14 year and that he was glad to have the projects completed. He also apologized for the misunderstanding.

The funding was approved 3-0 with Councilmembers Harvell and Scott not voting.