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Toledo adds $74,000 line item as sewer upgrade expects to come in under budget

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The Toledo City Council has approved the addition of a $74,000 access road to the scope of work for their ongoing sewer plant upgrade in light of the potential for the project to come in well under budget.

Approved during the council's Jan. 20 meeting, officials had kept an access road in mind as a possible addition if funding became available, and so far contractor Rotschy Inc., based in Vancouver, is expected to complete the project five months early and potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars below estimates.

"As long as we don't hit any big surprise, we'll end up really well," said City Clerk Michelle Whitten, stating final figures for actual costs of the project, which early estimates indicated would total around $9.6 million, will not be known until later this year when the final invoices from Rotschy and other parties are received.

When the council sent the project out for bid last year, they asked contractors to include the potential cost of a new access road, as the city's public works department had indicated the current road leading to the plant along the Cowlitz River is threatened by potential erosion. But the road was not a necessity for the upgrade and was included as only a potential line item, as the city did not want to draw from loans necessary to build the new plant any more than was needed.

So far, since planning for the project began in 2012, the city has taken out $874,000 in loans from the state's Public Works Trust Fund, as well as expended close to $4 million out of $6.4 million in state and county grants awarded in 2013. It is expected, after the remainder of the grants are spent, the city will again draw from the loan to cover all other remaining costs, of which they are approved to take out as much as $9.1 million.

Whitten said, as the project is expected to be completed this May rather than in October as previously projected, the city will have five months of labor and project management costs they do not have to pay, while expenses for legal notices and permitting are also expected to come in under budget.

She said the ultimate amount the city ends up saving will not be known until later this year, but said she does not expect sewer rates in Toledo will need to increase futher when the upgrade is complete, as they had already increased gradually between 2010 and 2014 to prepare for the expense of the project.

City officials have said, after the new sewer plant is built, they will then begin to focus on upgrading their water system, for which they were awarded a $725,000 Community Development Block Grant in September, and then begin planning to build a new City Hall to replace their current building, which has been the subject of structural concerns due to its age.

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