A vehicle travels over cracks in the road on Central Avenue in Sutherlin last summer.

SUTHERLIN — Major construction on Central Avenue, the main road cutting through Sutherlin’s core, was originally slated to start Wednesday. But construction has yet to start.

That’s because the city had to push back the start date from July 12 to October 1. The extension will help the city save $800,000, according to city staff.

Prospective contractors told city staff that with such a tight turnaround, they would have to charge about that much money to hire additional staff. They also said splitting the project into two building seasons will help save the city money.

The ambitious Central Avenue project that will grind and repave the 4-mile stretch from Church Street to the city’s eastern city limits, as well as repave sidewalks in its downtown area. It is estimated to cost $4.2 million. It should be done by August next year.

The city has yet to decide which contractor will do a majority of the work. Construction bids were opened June 29. Only two bids came in: one from Guido Construction, of Roseburg, and another from Knife River Materials, a national construction company. They each offered to do the work for about $3.6 million, which was over the engineer’s estimates by about $300,000.

City Manager Jerry Gillham said staff will assess how they can bring down costs and they will bring their recommendations to the council at its July 24 meeting.

Although both bids were close in price, Guido’s offer was cheaper by about $51,000. The city is legally obligated to choose the cheapest contract.

“We could get into a lawsuit if we don’t go with the lowest bid,” Councilor Forrest Stone said at the July 10 meeting.

Brian Elliott, the city’s community development director, said Guido’s application was missing two fields, so the city could legally go with Knife River.

“So basically it’s nonconforming for the bid process,” Elliot said. “[Guido] could be eliminated without a lawsuit. Council could make that decision.”

The city brought Knife River into the Central Avenue planning process early on. Staff invited the contractors to the table when they were deciding what the project should look like and how its deadlines could be parsed out. The same company is working on Roseburg’s $4.9 million South Stewart Parkway project.

City Manager Jerry Gillham made his contractor preferences clear at the council meeting.

“I told Guido that my recommendation as a city manager is that we recommend Knife River receive the bid,” he said. “[Owner Darby Guido] could contest all he wants, but he failed to complete two pieces of the application.”

Gillham added that his overall reason for recommending Knife River contractors was because they “are the best at what they do, especially with project management.”

“I wasn’t confident enough in the folks I talked with that it was worth the risk,” Gillham said.

Stone, who runs a construction business, also questioned Guido’s capacity to take on the project.

“I know Darby,” Stone said. “This is a big project for him.”

The remaining costs include engineering services and contingencies. City council approved three contracts with Herberly Engineering, of Umpqua, for a total of $197,500.

The Central Avenue project has numerous revenue streams associated with it. About $2.15 million came from a state buyout. The state once owned a portion of Central Avenue extending from Comstock Road to Calapooia Road. Sutherlin assumed responsibility of that portion in 2015, and in return, the state gave the city money to fix it up. About $250,000 of that is earmarked for downtown revitalization projects: repairing or installing curbs and gutters, making sidewalks ADA-compliant, improving bike lanes, adding pedestrian buttons at signals, removing some street trees and adding tree grates.

The roadwork in that section is estimated to cost about $1.3 million, so whatever is leftover will go toward paving the rest of Central Avenue.

The city also plans to take out a $505,000 state loan.

Another $651,000 is coming from Douglas County to fix its portion of Central Avenue. The county owns about one block of the road — the central downtown portion — since Old Highway 99 runs from Calapooia Street to State Street.

Finally, the city is pitching in $330,000 of the gas tax revenues it receives from the state.

Reporter April Ehrlich can be reached at 541-957-4202 or aehrlich@nrtoday.com.

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The $2.15M from the state was put in two special revenue funds for paving only (street and sidewalks) and cannot be used for downtown beautification.

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