Bids will test cost of extending utilities.

The City of Pratt wants to take the next step soon in developing the Sandy Creek addition on the Maple Street extension.

A vital element in getting the development started is interest in building on the addition. The addition also hasn't progressed because money and manpower have been used for other projects like the downtown paving project completed in summer 2011.

When the city commissioners give approval to proceed, the city will put out exploratory bids for utilities for the first phase of the addition that includes 16 lots.

The entire addition has 47 lots available and the average lot size is 13,300 feet, said Brad Blankenship, city inspector.

The bids will help the city determine what kind of monetary investment the city will have to make to get the utilities in place. Since these are exploratory bids, the city doesn't have to accept the bids.

"We're testing the waters to see where we are right now," Blankenship said. "The city has the right to reject any or all bids."

The city has a big investment in the Sandy Creek Addition. By sending out exploratory bids, it gives the city a better grasp of project costs.

"Utilities are expensive. They have to be done right the first time. You can't afford to make a mistake," Blankenship said.

Putting out bids is just one element of getting housing started in Sandy Creek. The city commission needs to know that people are interested in building in the area before they commit substantial sums of money for development.

The city gets phone calls weekly from people interested in building in the addition. They are told they need to come to the city commission meetings and share those desires with the commissioners.

So far, potential homebuilders and potential contractors interested in building speculative houses have not come to the commission meetings and shared their interest in building on the site.

"They (homebuilders and contractors) have to show interest," Blankenship said.

In the meantime, while the exploratory bids may be rejected, if they come back with favorable amounts, the city commissioners might decide to proceed with project development.

If the commissioners decide to proceed, formal bids for utility work will be put out and if accepted, the project can begin.

Two utility elements, electric and water, can be done immediately when bids are approved. Depending on the bids for electric and water, the city can do those utilities themselves. The electrical lines for the project will be run underground.

However, the sewer system is more complicated. The system has to be approved though the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

If they are busy with other projects, it might take some time for KDHE to get to the Sandy Creek project, Blankenship said.

Whoever is hired to do the sewer have to have a KDHE license to install the sewer system.

The Sandy Creek area is already platted. The engineering for the project is though EBH engineering and they will be responsible for getting the plat information to KDHE.

Whatever happens at Sandy Creek, the city commission has to approve all elements before anything can proceed.

If the bids for the first phase are favorable and the addition is opened to builders, the first construction could start as early as summer 2013.

If that phase sells out quickly, the city may decide to combine phases two and three into one phase and go with developing the entire addition.