Mount Airy officials have given the green light for repaving and safety improvements at a large parking lot beside the city post office, which has a price tag higher than first thought.
The Mount Airy Board of Commissioners voted 5-0 Thursday afternoon to award a contract for rehabilitating the now-closed lot to Sim-Con Co., LLC, of Mount Airy, at a cost not to exceed $78,000. Seventy-five parking spaces will result, along with three handicapped spots.
This move represents a rarity for the municipal government: funding improvements to a facility it doesn’t own, but is only leasing from the U.S. Postal Service.
That agency halted plans in late 2013 to repave the pothole-ridden lot because of budget constraints and subsequently closed it to public use in January 2014 to avoid potential liabilities due to its condition. Postal officials contended that other parking spaces at the post office were sufficient to serve its customers and they had no obligation to accommodate the public in general.
However, city officials have said the lot on South Main Street was needed both for postal customers at peak times and to meet general parking needs, especially during events such as the Autumn Leaves Festival and Mayberry Days. The closure also displaced a local farmers market that used the site.
After the U.S. Postal Service refused to sell or donate the property to Mount Airy, an agreement was reached earlier this year for the city government to lease the site at a cost of $1 per year. The lot has been barricaded for at least 18 months.
The lease agreement also requires the city to repave and make other improvements to the lot occupying about 32,000 square-feet, which led to Thursday’s vote on the contract.
When the lease was approved in late May, city officials estimated that the project’s cost would be $50,000 to $60,000.
However, when the results from a recent round of bidding among five local companies were revealed Thursday afternoon, the lowest offer — from Sim-Con — was $73,470. The highest bid received was $94,430, from APAC Atlantic Inc. Other companies involved were Smith-Rowe, LLC, Sowers Construction and Carl Rose and Sons.
In addition to repaving the lot, the work will include the addition of islands and landscaping to conform to city ordinance requirements.
An option by Sim-Con to provide an asphalt overlay with granite curbing, rather than concrete curbing, was not recommended for the final decision.
City Manager Barbara Jones explained that the granite curbing was rejected since a leased lot is involved.
The stipulation that the project not exceed $78,000, although the low bid was $73,470, will provide some wiggle room in case unforeseen problems are encountered with the work.
“That parking lot is rough,” City Engineer Mitch Williams told the commissioners.
“When all is said and done, it could be a little bit higher or a little bit less,” Williams said of the cost.
Money for the project will come from the city’s general fund balance, which is available to appropriate for any purpose.
The contract calls for the job to be completed within 45 days, but since it was awarded contingent upon approval by the U.S. Postal Service, Sim-Con won’t be able to start right away.
“I’m not certain it will be done by Mayberry Days,” Williams said of that late-September event.
He thinks the project will be finished by the Autumn Leaves Festival in October, assuming the weather cooperates.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.