Fulton council updated on number of projects

With no ordinances or resolutions to consider, Fulton's city council convened for just less than an an hour Tuesday, primarily to hear updates on the splash pad, animal shelter, warehouse, Seventh Street Bridge and smart-grid projects.

Many of the projects had minor delays, but all were generally still on track for their projected completion dates.

Parks and Recreation Director Clay Caswell addressed the council first on the splash pad project, which when completed will have a number of spray water features for children and families to play in at Memorial Park.

"We're ready to go on our end as far as laying out the plumbing goes," Caswell said, adding that he met with contractors earlier this month to map the layout. "They're going to start construction next Monday, June 2. They think they should be done by July 4, and that once they get moving they should get done pretty fast."

Council members expressed excitement for the timing of the project, saying it was "just in time" for the holiday and the hottest part of the year.

City Engineer Greg Hayes updated the council on the next number of projects. Hayes said floor plumbing had been installed on the new animal shelter site, off of Industrial Drive, and that concrete flooring would be poured this week.

Director of Administration added that all bids on the actual physical structure had been rejected, and that the city planned on re-evaluating its proposal before resubmitting bids.

The new shelter will replace the aging, smaller city-owned Garrett Animal Shelter, which for the past two decades has been in use as a "temporary solution" for the city.

Hayes continued to discuss the new city public works campus. A roughly-estimated $7 million project, the new facility would occupy much of the space left behind from the former Harbison Walker plant and replace the out-of-date public works facility and warehouse across the street on Westminster Avenue.

Much of the land needed to be graded prior to construction, so the city opted to rent a scraper for two months and have city employees grade the land themselves.

Hayes said the project was likely less than 25 percent done.

"We did some figuring, and we're about 10 days in the hole, not counting rain days," Hayes said. "We're got the crane working Saturdays, we're working overtime, we hired a temp worker to run the machine (to get caught up)."

Hayes said the project is still on track to be bid in June. Hayes added that the Seventh Street Bridge replacement, which has that street over the Stinson Creek closed for 90 days, is still on track — despite some difficulties with AT&T, which has lines that go over that span.

Utilities Superintendent Darrell Dunlap then took over to update the council on the smart grid. The city's 5,000 electric meters are being swapped out for newer devices that can be read remotely to provide more accurate readings.

Dunlap said more than 3,000 of the meters have been replaced, and reading devices provided by the contractor have come in for the city to go back over the routes and manually check the meters to ensure they are working properly.

At this point, Kathy Segerson — the citizen circulating a petition to have the city audited by the state — interrupted the meeting. Segerson arrived late and missed the portion regularly scheduled for public comment.

"Is the reason the bills were so high when they were estimated (last winter) because the only ones checked were the smart grid?" Segerson said. "Wouldn't it be better if we hired more meter checkers?"

Mayor LeRoy Benton advised Segerson the council did not answer questions out of turn, although councilman Lowe Cannell at a later point asked Dunlap to explain the estimating system. Dunlap said meters are estimated when weather conditions make it unsafe for city workers to check them, which happened two months in a row due to heavy snow and sub-zero temperatures and wind chills.

Estimated bills use figures from the previous month or the same month last year to calculate a bill. Dunlap added that when the smart grid meters are in place, the need to estimate bills will be removed.

When Segerson attempted a rebuttal, councilman Mike West said she was "out of line" before the council moved to adjourn.

Segerson stayed for about 10 minutes at an open house tour of the current public works facility held before the meeting at 4-6 p.m. for Fulton residents with questions about the project. She voiced concerns with the city and left without taking a tour.

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