BALLSTON — Plans to construct a public sewer system around Ballston Lake have hit a major roadblock, with construction bids coming in at least $2 million higher than expected.
The town last week opened three primary construction bids for the project, the lowest of which was for $12,374,000, from Carver Construction of Altamont. The other two bids came in at $18.6 million and $19.3 million.
Those amounts do not include electrical work, which was bid separately and would cost $120,000, if the lowest of the three bids were accepted. The combined low bids for construction and electrical work would be about $12.5 million – far more than the town planned to spend.
"It came in way over bid, and we have to go back to the drawing board," said Town Supervisor Tim Szczepaniak.
Based on earlier engineering estimates, town officials hoped construction would cost a little more than $10 million, he said. The initial indication for why the bids were so high, he said, is that earlier figures underestimated the cost of drilling through rock and shale around the lake to install the sewer line.
"We were disappointed about that," Szczepaniak said. "We're regrouping and seeing what our options are."
He said the town's choices include dropping the project, finding a way to scale back the project to reduce the cost and then putting it out to bid again, or looking for other sources of funding.
Town Attorney Deb Kaelin said the Town Board will almost certainly have to reject the bids – the prices are good for 60 days – if additional funding cannot be found quickly.
The Ballston Lake sewer project has a total budget of $12.7 million, but that includes engineering and design costs, as well as construction. At that price, the project would cost property owners an average of $870 per year.
Ballston currently has no sewers, but residents around Ballston Lake and in the Buell Heights neighborhood approved the sewer project in 2015, based on concerns about nutrients damaging the lake's ecology and septic system problems in Buell Heights. The new lines would connect to the Saratoga County sewage treatment collection system near the north end of the lake.
The bids being so high – and the likelihood the project will have to be re-bid – is the latest piece of bad news for efforts to bring sewers to town.
A $15.8 million proposal to extend the planned Ballston Lake system to Burnt Hills and the Route 50 corridor was rejected by residents in a referendum in April. And in January, the Town Board decided to drop plans to bring sewer service to the Carpenter's Acres subdivision at the north end of town because of the estimated cost.