By Jim Bloch
The city of St. Clair has hired Cortis Brothers Trucking and Excavating of Marine City to enclose the open ditch that runs in front of Woodland Estate on the west side of Carney Drive. The ditch is 760 feet long. The expansion of the subdivision, still in its early stages, sits across from Gearing Elementary School and Camberwell Apartments.
Cortis Brothers submitted the lowest of three bids for the work at $45,825. Murray Underground Systems of Fort Gratiot was next at $103,450. Raymond Excavating of Marysville was high at $138,539.
Cortis Brothers is doing the site development in the expanded sub.
At its regular meeting Sept. 18, the city council approved the contract with the company by a vote of 6-0. Council member Mitch Kuffa was absent.
“I think there’s some motivation to get the ditch done and I think there’s an incredible amount of cost savings as part of the development because Cortis Brothers is out there and they want to see the project done as well,” said City Superintendent Quentin Bishop, as heard on the recording of the meeting posted on YouTube.
Cortis will use dirt and clay excavated from the construction site for fill.
“Really what the cost is — is material for pipe,” said Bishop. “The earth work and the labor, he’s taking a haircut on that.”
The other two companies quoted the cost of bringing the fill to the site.
“I’m in favor of closing in that ditch,” said council member Micah Volz. “It should have been done from the beginning.”
Member Kris Paul joined Volz in arguing that the city should not have ditches within its boundaries — or gravel roads for that matter.
“What will it take to enclose that ditch from Vine to Clinton?” asked Paul.
Perhaps another $250,000: The ditch in front of the subdivision accounts for about a third of the total span of the ditch between Vine Street and Clinton Avenue.
“My proposal that I gave you guys is the front of my development and I threw everything I had at it,” said a representative of Cortis Brothers.
“It is an opportunity to get a lot done for half the price because we have someone there who’s interested in helping us,” said council member Erin Gottler. “It’s probably beneficial to take advantage of the that.”
Bishop argued that enclosing the ditch may help the city control costs and improve safety for its employees.
“One of our DPW was working in the ditch, he was weed-whacking and he was stung so many times by bees that he had to go to urgent care,” said Bishop. “There are things that pop up. There are liabilities. He’s in the ditch and, quite frankly, if it wasn’t for the other guy standing there and keeping watch on the road, he wouldn’t have seen the trouble he was in.”
Instead of paying for a spotter and a worker, and exposing them to safety issues, an enclosed ditch will save the city money, Bishop said.
The work is expected to be completed before the end of this year’s construction season.
Jim Bloch is a freelance writer based in St. Clair, Michigan. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.