Duncansville project needs some patience

Some Duncansville residents might be troubled over the explanation they’ve been given about the bidding process connected to a $201,000 state Department of Environmental Protection grant.

While it is not unheard of for a project to attract bids higher than anticipated, the fact that bids for the Duncansville project came in $95,000 higher than the project’s $170,000 estimated total cost is indicative that something in the planning for this particular project could have been done better.

Larger municipalities that deal often with state and federal grants usually are more adept in planning and project implementation than smaller towns, whose usual official business is routine, month after month. Therefore, Duncansville council members can’t really be condemned for not being project experts and for not pursuing the bidding preparation in a different — perhaps, more hands-on — way than they did.

Professional consultants are hired by most communities to help them prepare for projects of significant size; Duncansville has a consulting engineer for the project in question.

The project involves construction of a rain garden, a footbridge over the rain garden, an accessibility ramp, a porous walking trail and a pervious-paved, multi-purpose court with basketball hoops.

What caused the project’s bids to exceed the estimated cost by such a big amount was the pervious pavers, which turned out to be much more expensive than they were expected to be.

An obvious question regarding the big price increase is why it occurred over what presumably was a relatively short period of time. However, if the price increase wasn’t a recent matter, how could the information have escaped the borough prior to preparation of bid documents?

Consulting engineer Tom Levine, at a borough council meeting last month, indicated that he had done a price check regarding the pavers and, commendably, accepted responsibility for the problem. However, borough residents still might have questions regarding the proverbial nuts and bolts of the bidding process that put the borough in a race against time.

The deadline imposed by DEP for spending the grant money is the end of June, presumably tied to the end of the state’s fiscal year. By now there should not be any uncertainties about how the project will proceed.

At the council meeting, it was decided to follow Levine’s advice to award the project contract, minus the pervious paving for the court, if an extension to the “spend” deadline wasn’t forthcoming in time from the DEP. Levine said he already had submitted the extension request.

The council discussed possible options if the DEP were to refuse a spending extension, but the bottom line is that uncertainties — uncertainties that could and should have been avoided — apparently still hang heavily over the project, including whether it will be fully functional, as intended.

During the meeting, Mayor Lloyd Forshey observed correctly that young people aren’t going to play basketball on a grass surface, if the intended surface can’t be installed.

Residents of the town should be patient, to allow borough officials the opportunity to resolve the project’s issues. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they should be happy over what has transpired.