Members of the Houston City Council met Monday night. 

Members of the Houston City Council waded through a lengthy agenda Monday night that brought updates on several major projects underway.

Members heard news on installation of an automatic electrical meter reading system, an assessment of the condition of the city’s electrical poles, installation of a fiber-to-the-home gig internet system and work to repair sewer lines that are causing infiltration to the city’s wastewater treatment plant during periods of rainfall.

The discussion was included in a 25-point agenda.

Topping the talks was construction a new municipal swimming pool. Members awarded the contract to Westport Pools, a Maryland Heights firm. It was among two firms submitting bids. The contract totals about $1.2 million for the West Side Park pool. Additionally, the council approved a management contract for the pool, pool house and concession area with Navigate Building Solutions of St. Louis. It does not include demolition work. Jen Kissinger, project director, attended the meeting. Qualifications for the pool house and concession stand are being sought.

It is hoped the demolition work can begin within two weeks with completion of the project by late July. That’s pending a state notice to proceed.  

The city also has the option of accelerating the work schedule with Westport, which normally works four days a week — rather than five. It is hoped that Westport might be able to take a previous pool design and make adjustments to move the project faster.

City Administrator Scott Avery also recommended that the city seek proposals for about $1.6 million in financing, rather than dipping into its reserves, as had been decided earlier. The loan sought by the council would assess no penalties for early payment. The city won a $250,000 grant from Missouri State Parks written by former city grant administrator Elaine Campbell. Additionally, the city expects about $177,000 in funds from the park department’s portion of a one-cent sales tax approved by voters last year. Those funds could immediately be used toward the debt retirement.

The council also heard about some structural issues with a pump house on the east side of the pool. That work is not included in the scope of the pool project approved Monday night.

PROJECT UPDATES

•The city will reduce the geographic scope of services provided by Visu-Sewer, which is assisting it in identifying troublespots leading to infiltration of water that lands at the city’s wastewater treatment plant. The bid turned out higher than expected so a smaller targeted area will be sought. That area includes the downtown and a region from West Highway 17 northward to the U.S. Forest Service and Emmett Kelly Park.

City crews will use video to look at other areas for damage as a solution is generated.  That will save some money on the $330,000 budgeted project.

•Planning is underway with Nexgrid, the firm hired to install an automatic utility reading system. Phase I will include an area around Walnut Street and northward. Electric and water meters will be installed that automatically take readings. The contractor also must install infrastructure throughout the city — that transmits the data — before it is fully operational.

•Osmose, a contractor to do electrical pole inspections, tag and develop a GPS map, is already in the area working with Intercounty Electric Cooperative. It will also assess any damage to poles. The work is estimated to take about two weeks.

•Engineering work is underway for Houston’s fiber-to-the-home internet project. A meeting is expected next week. Installation of fiber will take about six months. City facilities will be targeted first.

In other matters, members:

•Accepted a $9,300 bid from West Plains Fence for installation of about 470 feet of chainlink fence at the wastewater treatment plant. It is included in the 2020 budget. The work was recommended by an insurance company.

•Heard that high demand made it difficult to secure a Dodge Charger for purchase by the police department. A 2019 black model was set to be picked up in the St. Louis area Tuesday under the state’s contract. The cost is $25,865. It was included in the 2020 budget. The council authorized the sale of some surplus police equipment, such as computers, now that the department is transitioning to cheaper, more rugged laptops.

•A 2020 Ford truck was approved from Joe Machens Ford in Columbia under a state contract. The cost is about $29,000, a little more than what was budgeted. The overrun will come from an equipment budget line in the public works department.

•Authorized seeking about $568,000 from U.S. Rural Development in grant funds for a new fire truck.

Members:

•Heard Avery give an update on the 2019 revenue and expenditures that showed for the most part, an increase in the city’s bottom line. Electrical sales were lagging some.

•Discussed a proposed ordinance to better outline utility easements. A work session on zoning is 5 p.m. Jan. 28.

•Will seek a builder’s risk insurance policy for pool work to cover any calamity that might occur during construction.

•Learned about 16 applicants were received for two positions in the city. Interviews will begin soon.

•Will place signage on U.S. 63 that warns truck drivers not to use their jake brakes, which is a violation of  city ordinance.

•Adjourned into a closed session.

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