Despite bids totaling nearly $5 million more than expected, the Lonoke White Public Water Authority Board of Directors voted Tuesday to approve six construction contracts. The awarding of the contracts was the last action needed to begin building the long-awaited pipeline from Greers Ferry Lake.

“Everything is on go,” LPWPA director Woody Bryant said Tuesday at the board meeting at the Ward Municipal Complex Community Room.

Current LWPWA members include Austin, Beebe Water and Sewer Commission, Furlow Public Water Authority, Grand Prairie/Bayou Two Water Users Association, Jacksonville Water, North Pulaski Waterworks, Vilonia Waterworks Association and Ward Water. Ward mayor Art Brooke is the current LWPWA president.

When complete the approximately 35-mile, pipeline will deliver up to 30 million gallons of water a day from Greers Ferry Lake. Construction will include an intake and water treatment facility at the Cove Creek section of the lake.

The project is being funded by a $24.5 million federal loan, and up to $30.9 million from the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission. Repayment of the loans would be through water rates charged by the members.

Tommy Bond of Bond Engineers announced the bids for the six contracts for various portions of the project. Overall, the bids totaled about $5 million more than expected, he said.

Estimated cost of the project was about $41.9 million, and the bid total is about $45.8 million.

Bond said that the difference is mostly because of an unexpectedly high increase in the cost of materials. Although the estimates had been updated by about a year to reflect costs in a similar project, apparently they had not been adjusted sufficiently, he said.

Contract 1: Plant and Intake — estimated cost $20.62 million; apparent low bid — $18 million by PC Construction.

Contract 2: 24-inch transmission line — estimated cost, $14.54 million; apparent low bid — $21.30 million by S&J Construction of Jacksonville.

Contract 3: 16-inch transmission line — estimated cost $3.51 million; apparent low bid — $2.74 million by Paladino Construction of Conway.

Contract 4: Elevated Tank — estimated cost $1.36 million; apparent low bid $1.36 million by Phoenix Fabricators.

Contract 5: Access Roads — estimated cost $405,000; apparent low bid — $318,046 by Frank Gardner Construction of Mount Vernon.

Contract 6: Meter Stations — estimated cost $1,521, 500; apparent low bid — $2.09 million by NLS Construction of Rosebud.

Bond remarked that several of the contractors are from the area.

“We got pretty much local people. All this money is going to circulate here in our area,” he said.

One of the winning contractors is from Vermont, “But he brought the low price when he came down here,” Bond said.

Bond recommended the board accept the low bids. The vote to accept was without dissent.

LPWPA director Woody Bryant assured the directors that the funds to over the bids are available.

“One of the first questions I got was that if the bids came in more than we budgeted for it, how are we going to do it?” he said.

Changes in the rates of the loans obtained by LPWPA will make sufficient difference to make enough available to meet the bids, Bryant said.

“The funds will be there to pay without changing the water rate or anything else that is put forth in your contract,” Bryant said.

“So, everything is on go to take the money you have promised to pay, and pay the bills, and still have some contingency left,” Bryant said.

“Yes, this is costing more money than we first thought. But the funds will be there,” he said.

Construction could begin by the end of June, a groundbreaking ceremony could be set for the beginning of August.