With all of the needed discussion taking place previously, the St. Clair Board of Aldermen made quick work of passing an ordinance last week that authorizes Mayor Ron Blum to enter into a tree and brush removal agreement with Jay Rice Contracting.

The terms of the agreement call for a $19,600 payment to Rice to clear the debris from the main east and west sewer trunk lines so repairs to the system can continue.

“I believe the aldermen are all familiar with this,” City Administrator Rick Childers said when the ordinance was introduced. “This is the bid opening discussed at our last meeting.”

The bill unanimously was passed.

In March, city officials and the aldermen debated a similar ordinance that would have allowed the bid to go to Jerry Landing. Landing presented a much lower bid for the services at $4,800, but his paperwork was dropped off about a half-hour after the advertised deadline for bid submittal.

After a lengthy discussion during the March 17 board meeting that included a five-minute executive session, the aldermen decided not to accept Landing’s low bid because it was turned in late.

That meant an ordinance that was scheduled for approval during that meeting was redrafted to include Rice’s bid.

The city requested bids for the service to clear debris along the east and west main sewer trunk lines as additional improvements continue to be made to the wastewater system.

Four bids were received by the deadline, and they were taken to the city’s wastewater treatment plant for opening and review. Before the bids were opened there, Landing brought a fifth bid to city hall 28 minutes after the deadline had passed.

When it was opened, it was revealed that Landing’s bid was significantly lower than the others.

The debate then centered on whether to accept the lower bid even though it was late in order to save the taxpayers and city some money, or to disqualify it because it was late.

Childers had said that there was “no way” the bid process was compromised and that Landing could not have known the amount of the other bids received by the deadline.

“My perspective is that we need to follow procedures and give the bid to the lowest bidder,” Blum said last month in reference to that low bidder officially being Rice.

The aldermen agreed, so the original ordinance died. Monday’s ordinance took its place.

The request for proposals called for one-time brush and tree clearing services along specified pipeline alignments located within the city’s sanitary sewer collection system.

Two separate proposals actually were requested —one to clear the debris along the east trunk line and the other to do the same along the west line.

The city could have selected separate bids for each job.

Rice’s bids were $10,400 and $9,200.

The ordinance notes that Rice submitted an “on-time bid.”

Other Ordinances

The board approved a pair of other bills on April 7 that revoke and amend sections of the city’s code of ordinances.

The first one dealt with adding a $3 fee to court costs for the sheriff’s retirement fund. The other centered on language dealing with residential connections to public sewers and the future maintenance of pumps to transport sewage.

Both were unanimously passed.

The sheriff’s retirement fund ordinance raises St. Clair’s court costs to $34.50, City Attorney Kurt Voss said.

Language states that the state court administrator’s office has advised municipal courts and clerks that the local courts are to assess the $3 surcharge for the sheriff’s retirement fund.

Voss said that mandate has been in the books since 1996, but it was unclear as to whether it applied to municipal courts.

After a clarification, David Arand, St. Clair’s Municipal Court judge, recently said the city should begin paying the $3 fee per case into the fund. Voss said it would be up to the aldermen as to whether they wanted to pass along that cost to defendants or have the city potentially pay it.

Childers said St. Clair averages about 1,500 municipal court tickets annually, which translates to $4,500.

Voss said the ruling has been challenged, and that there is a lawsuit pending.

The pump maintenance ordinance reads that the city still will be responsible for maintaining the grinder pumps installed on residential sewer lines until ownership changes hands. At that time, the responsibility will transfer to the new owner.

Public Works Director Jason Ivie told the aldermen that there currently are 34 pumps and properties that qualify. He said the city has spent about $6,000 to $7,000 to maintain and repair these pumps since the recent winter.

The city charges those residents who have them but don’t pay for their upkeep a monthly $4.30 maintenance fee. It is added to the sewer bill.

The grinder pumps serve as mini lift stations and are needed if gravity flow doesn’t work.