OLEAN — After a month of delay, the contract is getting signed to fix a priority water project in the city.

The Common Council on Tuesday unanimously awarded the $1.1 million contract to replace water lines along Washington Street next year to J.D. Northrup Construction of Ellicottville.

Alderman Linda Witte, D-Ward 1, noted that the firm was not the lowest bidder when bids were opened Aug. 19, but a 2014 local law allows the city to give preference to local contractors if within $50,000 of the low bid.

“We’re paying $35,000 more because it’s being awarded to local contractors and, ultimately, that falls on our taxpayers,” she said. “I don’t want to say we’re rigging the system, but we are closing ourselves off.”

Witte, noting the public safety concerns and the road condition, voted in favor of awarding the contract.

The plans include replacing a 4-inch water line from the corner of West Sullivan and North Fourth streets, down Fourth to Washington Street, and then west to 10th Street. Due to a century of buildup of minerals and rust, the current line acts like a 2-inch line.

Because of low flow to the area, firefighting is difficult, and high usage, it is feared by officials, could cause the line to collapse. An 8-inch line will be installed as a replacement. The project also calls for paving Washington Street, which is in very poor condition near Oak Hill Park.

The project will be entirely funded by the city, with the line replacement funded by the water fund and the road work by the general fund. The project has a budget of $1.3 million, including a 15% contingency line and 5% field change line. In July, the council authorized a $1.35 million bond for the project, with $50,000 to cover the cost of the bond issuance. The bond payment for the Washington Street project has been estimated at around $30,000 a year.

The contract states the work will be completed by June 30, but city officials said last week that work will not begin until spring.

IN OTHER BUSINESS, city leaders lauded the 40 or so volunteers who aided the All Aboard for Olean cleanup effort on Saturday.

Council President John Crawford, D-Ward 5, said, “I hope we can continue it in the future. I didn’t think 40 people could hit the entire city in that time.”

While successful, Crawford and other participants noted with dismay the number of cigarette butts collected.

“I spent the better part of three hours picking up hundreds of cigarette butts,” Crawford said.

“I just wish people would just take two seconds and not throw things out their windows,” Witte said. “We found a dead fish and a bullet, but what we kept finding were cigarette butts.”

Crawford said he is submitting legislation to ban smoking in city parks.

“I think it’s time the council stops pussyfooting around on this,” he said, adding he does not want the proposal to be about raising revenue from fines. “I would be fine with it being a fine of an hour picking up cigarette butts in our parks.”

(Contact City Editor Bob Clark at bclark@oleantimesherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @OTHBob)

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