Commonwealth Journal

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June 24, 2014

Bid approved for energy center

Mayor: Construction could begin in August

Somerset —

A low proposal by D.W. Wilburn of Lexington and Somerset to build Somerset Energy Center for $9,180,000 was accepted Monday night by Somerset City Council. Awarding a construction contract is subject to final approval by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Community Facilities Program which has OK’d an $8.5 million loan to build the center.
All 11 members of city council present at Monday night’s council session voted to accept Wilburn’s bid. Jim Rutherford was absent.
Wilburn’s low proposal was $680,000 more than the approved loan, but Mayor Eddie Girdler commented at the May 27 bid opening: “ ... these are good bids ... about what we expected.” Three other construction firms submitted proposals, the highest of which was $10,382,000.
Girdler said he expects USDA to complete paperwork by the middle of July and hopefully a contract can be let and construction begin in August. Girdler said earlier the $8.5 million USDA loan will be repaid with profits from the city’s natural gas business and not with taxpayers’ money.
“Everybody seems excited about being able to get the project under construction ... it will have a big impact on the downtown area,” Girdler remarked.
The glass-bedecked energy complex, designed by Brandstetter Carroll Inc., Lexington, will be the nerve center for Somerset’s vast natural gas network. The 36,200-square-foot structure also will contain space for city hall.
The energy center will be located on what is now a city parking lot at the corner of East Mt. Vernon and College streets. The area will be expanded by demolition of the former Meece Hardware building on the west side of the parking lot; the former city utilities building on the west side of College Street north of the parking lot; and the current city utilities building on the east side of College Street just north of Somerset City Hall. The existing city hall, a former automotive repair shop building converted to a honeycombed city hall in 1951, will be torn down to make way for a parking lot.

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