The current water treatment plant has been operating in Philomath since the mid-1980s. (File photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Seconds after the Philomath City Council unanimously approved a plan Monday night to purchase materials in advance for the upcoming water treatment plant and reservoir project, Public Works Director Kevin Fear was reaching out to the project engineer.

“I’m texting the engineer right now so he can get us in line for getting the pipe and stuff,” Fear said following the vote. “It’s that tight … he’s sending that in tonight.”

Westech Engineering, the firm designing the water treatment plant, had recommended the move.

“Due to a number of nationwide economic factors, the time required to procure construction materials has become quite lengthy and has caused significant delays to construction schedules,” Westech Engineering Project Manager Peter Blumanthal said in an Aug. 3 letter. “In some cases, the delivery time to procure ductile iron pipe, valves and fittings can exceed seven months.”

Fear in an agenda item summary to the council said many cities are purchasing needed components in advance of upcoming projects and storing the materials at their facilities to avoid delays.

“The amount of materials would be enough to allow the contractor to get started on construction and continue the project while awaiting further shipments,” Fear said.

Westech solicited bids from six materials suppliers for the procurement of critical construction materials. Two proposals were submitted separated by a margin of roughly $10,200.

“This constitutes 7.5% of the total contract value,” Blumanthal said. “In short, we believe the bids are fair and responsive and we believe both are an accurate valuation of the materials.”

Westech recommended a solution to combat supply chain challenges would be to split the contract between the two bidders and proceed in a way that minimizes the overall delivery time of the needed materials.

The project will be completed in two phases with the construction of a 1.5 million-gallon concrete storage reservoir to be followed by the water treatment plant itself.

In other news out of the Aug. 8 meeting:

• Following a somewhat lengthy discussion, councilors approved a resolution to authorize the city manager to sign an intergovernmental agreement with the state’s Department of Land Conservation and Development to provide updated natural hazards mitigation planning. Such plans are intended to identify and understand hazards that a jurisdiction may face and prioritizes actions that can be taken to reduce serious impacts from injuries and deaths to economic and environmental harm. The project is targeted for completion by January 2024, which takes into account timelines related to a grant that DLCD received to assist with the city’s plan. Katherine Daniel, natural hazards planner with the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development, was on hand to provide information and answer questions.

• The council unanimously approved a resolution in recognition of National Farmers’ Market Week, which runs Aug. 7-13.

• The council unanimously approved ordinances on roll-call votes related to comprehensive plan amendments in chapters on housing and economy.

• A discussion on an ordinance involving a telecommunications franchise agreement with Alyrica Networks led to an amended fee schedule. The city attorney plans to bring back a revised ordinance to the next meeting.

• Councilor Jessica Andrade relayed specific frustrations related to the Inclusivity Committee’s function and requested that the City Council perform a comprehensive review to “better align the work” with the committee’s original intent. After a 35-minute discussion, a motion by Andrade to schedule a work session to complete that task failed on a 5-2 vote.

• City Manager Chris Workman reported that the state approved of Philomath’s establishment of an enterprise zone, a move intended to incentivize new business and create jobs through local property tax abatement. A cabinetry business to be located on Landmark Drive has already applied and at least two other entities are showing interest, Workman said.

• Workman said the farmers’ market manager wants to continue to provide the city with booth space but added that political activities, such as a candidate running an election campaign, would not be allowed in the space. Councilors can volunteer to staff the booth as a way to provide outreach to the community on specific topics. Andrade and Councilor Catherine Biscoe have in the past been at the farmers’ market in a booth that they established. Biscoe said they have spoken only on neutral topics and have not campaigned.

• Workman shared plans to reconfigure the City Hall’s council chambers by removing the antiquated dais, installing new carpet and bringing in new foldable mahogany-top tables and matching chairs. The space also serves as the site of municipal court twice per month.

• The city manager also updated a situation with the Downtown Safety and Streetscape Improvements Project construction budget with bids to the Oregon Department of Transportation coming in higher than originally anticipated. Workman said the low bid was about $2.5 million higher than the projected cost. Discussions with ODOT will continue on how much of the over-budget costs may be requested from Philomath.

Brad Fuqua, Philomath News

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.