Miami's street bond funded improvements are under way. City Manager Jeff Bishop and his staff wanted to update the community on the progress of the streets, bridges and Gateway sign and give clarification to a few questions being asked by residents.

Bishop first wanted to dispel rumors regarding the street work. “The street bond has not been secretly spent,” he said.

Bishop said these funds cannot be spent elsewhere and funds are overseen and maintained by the trustee which is the Bank of Oklahoma. He said the City has to justify any invoices sent to them and expenses have to be specifically for the street project.

“We have to submit to them only invoices that are really authorized to be paid for from the bond proceeds. The City doesn't even have possession of the funds, so there's no way for the City to have spent it on other things, like a Gateway sign,” Bishop said.

The Gateway sign was paid for from a 2006 grant fund, earmarked specifically for historical restoration projects.

“That grant money was going to go somewhere in the state of Oklahoma and we're grateful it came to Miami,” Amanda Davis the City's Director of Tourism and Communications said.

“To the issue of funding if we could get a grant for sewer lines we'd go after it, if we could get a grant for water lines we'd go after it, grants are from programs designed to promote something specific. And if we don't go after that grant other city's will,” Bishop said.

Davis said the only city funds used were a match from hotel taxes from the Convention & Visitors Bureau that have to be used for promoting tourism.

The Gateway sign will be completed by next Monday with additional lighting and rock work near the base. Davis said the color green was chosen for the poles to enhance the vintage 1920s look of the Coleman Theatre.

Answering criticism that the sign is hard to read, Davis said, “I think the lighting will help.”

“The other issue I wan to address is that we can't use windfalls from the bond to pay the Qui Tam suit, so the bond can't not be spent in anticipation of passing that money on to private individuals,” Bishop said.

According to Bishop any money paid out in the Qui Tam lawsuit, if a settlement were to be given, would come from insurance or a direct assessment on property taxes for that purpose.

Bishop said his understanding, after speaking with the attorney for the city, the Qui Tam lawsuit filed by residents for issues with the street work is still in the mediation process as ordered by Judge Robert Haney.

Bishop said another issue was that the City would run out of time before the funds were spent. “That's not the case we have plenty of time,” he said.

According to City Engineer Chuck Child's the City has until October of next year to spend the money.

“We're going to finish this phase of the work, and then next Spring we'll begin the next phase,” he said,

“The big question before the City is the Truck Route.”

Childs and Tyler Cline, the City's Assistant Public Works Director, explained that the Street Committee is trying to make determinations on what work, and to what extent, needs to be completed on the Truck Route.

“One of the ideas is, because we look at the Truck Route as more of a regional route because everybody uses it and often times the regional routes have better chances for funding then we do for our local residential streets if we can get it on the list, to look for other sources of funding from outside sources. Or transfer that responsibility to another agency,” Childs said.

Childs said the street project bidding process now covers more specific work, and now the contractors are given a window of time to complete the project instead of a specific schedule. This allows contractors to bid lower on projects as they can maximize and optimize the use of their equipment for other projects which computes to lower pricing for the City's bid work.

Phase One of the Street Project is completed, and Phase Two was began last week, although the base work has been ongoing since March.

To avoid problems with delays between base work and paving, Cline said, “We set it up this year that the same contractor did the milling and the paving.”

Each project is inspected by both the City's Engineer and Anderson engineering by taking core samples to test and taking samples for testing during the paving process.

The results are reviewed by Childs and Cline to ensure that they are in line with the specifications required.

“Now, this is this year's plan, next year we'll be doing it differently. We're going to adopt one of the more traditional models by hiring a consulting engineer to do the specifications and design,” Bishop said, “We will hire a construction manager for recruitment, so we will have a checks and balance system in that contract.”

He said Childs and Cline would be supervising the construction manager for future projects.

“It's a pretty standard industry approach to it, in fact in some federally funded programs, you have no choice but to hire a third party construction manager,” he said.

Bishop said although the costs may increase with this way of operating the risk management is greatly enhanced.

Childs explained that with the City's more complicated projects a specific expertise could be essentially beneficial to oversee projects of this type and caliber.

Cline said there were some slight delays with bidders in the bonding process due to the pending Qui Tam lawsuit.

Last week work was done on Elm Street to control dust.The latest work being done by APAC Construction, the soft spot repair contractor, is leaving the remaining soft spots on Rockdale just rocked in until Friday or the following Monday. These are down from  NEO.  They will also be doing this on future streets.

“When they pave them they will remove 5” of the rock and place asphalt which should occur 3-4 days after the spot is rocked in.  The areas are being left in just rock for a few days to hopefully prevent any future settling of the area (a possible bump a year down the road if this would occur) and to insure compaction of the rock is being achieved.  The contractor is placing rock in (4) 4” lifts to also better achieve compaction in these small areas,” Cline said.

Cline said crews are going door to door and door hangers would be used to notify residents of street work in their area 48 hours in advance.

“The construction manager has assured me that these areas will be kept clean to the best of their ability,” Cline said.

The staff gave an update of the bridge work being done in Miami on the Easte Central and Rockdale bridges. The Rockdale Bridge is made up of an old arch bridge nearly 100 years old that was expanded to add a sidewalk.

“The old steel beams that are underneath there is the part that's giving us issues,”Childs said.

Options are being looked at to preserve the stonework, called Con-span, or concrete arches. Another option is to keep the old bridge for use in the new walking trails and building another bridge for vehicle traffic. Childs said public input would be sought in the decision.

Childs said by contract the bridge on the East Central Bridge work has 120 days to be completed which would put completion around the end of November.

The remaining street project balance is $5,590,293.69 and all work should be completed for Phase Two of the street work in two months.

Updates on the work will be posted here in the News-Record and at miamiok.com and on the City of Miami's website and Facebook page.