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Favorable Rivercane bid awaits approval

By By Adam Prestridge
Pending low-bidder certification from the City of Atmore's engineering firm, Goodwyn, Mills &Cawood, Inc., dust may soon fly on the site of the new Rivercane development.
Thursday morning, the Atmore Industrial Development Board opened four bids for construction of infrastructure for Phase 1 of Rivercane, a 643-acre development located at Exit 57 off Interstate 65.
According to Atmore Mayor Howard Shell, Hemphill Construction Company out of Florence, Miss. is the apparent low bidder with a bid of $3,836,675.
"Our preliminary budget we established was between $3.4 million and $3.5 million," project manager Jim Corman said. "We are in the process of negotiating with the apparent low bidder and may alter some of the specs in an attempt to bring the price down. I think we're close enough and I'm confident that the Industrial Development Board and the city council will vote to proceed."
Phase 1 of the project had to be re-bid earlier this month after the lowest and only bid received was more than $1.5 million over the preliminary budget with a bid of $4,120,000. Although the apparent low bidder in the second round of bids is just over $300,000 more than projections, Corman said the board was delighted with the second set of bids received.
"We're pleased with the outcome," he said. "We believe mobilization could begin within a week or two weeks. General contractor will begin setting up office and getting equipment out there. We should start seeing construction activity almost immediately."
S.A. Graham out of Brundidge was the second apparent low bidder with a bid of $4.5 million. W.S. Newell of Montgomery bid $4,959,000 and Mobile's Phillip &Jordan submitted a bid of $5,245,307.
"We were pleased to have four reputable bidders involved in the process," Shell said. "We are looking forward to Goodwyn, Mills &Cawood completing their review process so we can get started on the project."
If Goodwyn, Mills &Cawood finds that Hemphill Construction Company's bid meets all specifications and standards required by the bid package during its tabulation, a special called meeting of the Industrial Development Board may be called to finalize the deal. Should that occur before the next Atmore City Council meeting, which is slated for Aug. 14, a special called meeting of the city council could also be called to approve the bid, so work can begin on the Rivercane site.
"We're about to see some serious dirt being kicked around out there," Corman said.
In addition to opening Phase 1 bids, the Industrial Development Board also agreed to spend the necessary design fees needed to put together a landscaping plan for Exit 57 off I-65. The board will also use funds to apply for an Alabama Department of Transportation grant, which would pay for 80 percent of the project, should the city be awarded the funds. The city would have to cover the remaining 20 percent needed for the project, which will probably include improved lighting.
"It's not even a question of whether or not you should improve the exits when you're doing a project of this size," Shell said. "It's obvious we need to apply for this grant."
According to Corman, the application for the grant has to be completed by Sept. 29. The city could find out whether or not it received the grant as early as Jan. 1, 2007 or as late as April. He also said there is not a minimum or maximum amount of funding within the application. It is believed that the project would cost no more than $200,000, including engineering fees and application fees.
The Industrial Development Board yesterday also passed a resolution recommending that Phase 2 planning begin and that Goodwyn, Mills &Cawood would be used as the engineering firm.
"What that means is during the preliminary planning stage we will identify the additional property we want to include in Phase 2," Corman said.
The preliminary budget for Phase 2 will also be determined. Corman hopes that the plan will be ready for approval at the Aug. 31 Industrial Development Board.
"We were concerned that the Phase I bids weren't going to be close," Corman said. "The fact that we were this close and that we now have the opportunity to proceed with Phase 1 is a huge step. We are excited about that we are going to be able to proceed with the planning Phase 2."