Work on a $52 million project to expand North Pole’s municipal water system is expected to begin within a few weeks, now the City Council has awarded the contract to a Fairbanks company. The project will extend the system into areas where the groundwater was contaminated by a chemical compound that leaked from the now-shuttered North Pole Refinery more than a decade ago.
North Pole’s City Council on Tuesday unanimously agreed with public works Director Bill Butler’s recommendation to award the $52.1 million contract to Exclusive Paving of Fairbanks.
Mayor Bryce Ward says it wasn’t the lowest bid submitted for the project – but it was the best of the five offers submitted.
“Because of the size of the project and the timeframe and the constraints, we really wanted to make sure the contractor was well-equipped to be able to handle such a project with such a short timeline,” he said.
Ward says he expects work to begin soon, initially around 12 Mile Village and on city property north of the Richardson Highway.
“There is work that needs to be done before the ground thaws,” he said. “So they’re going to be out there, starting to work here within the next month or so.”
The second phase, expected to begin next year, would extend the system into areas along Peridot Road to just beyond Badger Road.
The project will pipe water into areas in and around town where the groundwater has been contaminated by sulfolane, an industrial solvent that leaked from the North Pole Refinery operated most recently by Flint Hills Resources Alaska.
The city won’t have to pay for the work – an agreement brokered by the state last year requires Flint Hills to pay for 80 percent of the project, and for the state will pick up the rest of the cost. But Ward says that could change, depending on the outcome of a legal fight between Flint Hills and The Williams Companies, the Oklahoma-based firm that sold the refinery to Flint Hills in 2004.
“Now, that is still pending,” the mayor said. “That allocation could change, with the ongoing litigation with the other party.”
The contract is worth just over half of the maximum estimated project cost of $100 million. But Ward says there will be additional work needed after Exclusive Paving completes its part of the project.
“It does not include everything,” he said. “Service connections are not part of this project. This project is just putting in the infrastructure, and service connections are going to be added on once the system is operational.”
The city has scheduled a Feb. 24 open house at the North Pole Plaza Mall to provide more information about the project.