BAKER — The City Council on Tuesday night approved a bid for a project in the works for more than 20 years to upgrade some of the city’s natural gas pipelines.

Mayor Harold Rideau said the city has been trying to secure funding since 1990 to upgrade some natural gas pipelines in the Morvant, Leland and Baker Heights area.

Valentine & LeBlanc LLC, a contracting company out of Baton Rouge, secured the project with a low bid of $1,027,948.

Kevin Gravois, vice president of Professional Engineering Consultants Corp., the company that reviewed all five bids for the city, said the project would mostly involve repairing old pipelines and replacing home meters.

Gravois said workers would shut off all pipelines while working on them, as is standard procedure, and turn off all gas-fueled appliances in homes fed by the pipelines. Crews also will make sure the pilot lights of water heaters and stoves work properly again after the upgrades are completed.

“This is going to save us quite a bit of money,” Rideau said.

The project will be funded by a $635,000 grant from the Hurricane Gustav/Ike Disaster Recovery Fund and $750,000 in capital outlay support.

As a result, Gravois said, the city would retain about $200,000 in contingency money, partly because the bid came in below the $1.1 million estimate provided by the consulting company.

Other business coming before the council included:

UTILITY COMPLAINTS: The City Council and the mayor, in addition to all municipal employees, will receive the first lesson in a series of customer service training sessions beginning at 8 a.m. Monday following a string of complaints during the month of March by residents regarding alleged rudeness of city employees.

At Tuesday’s council meeting, two more residents voiced concern about complications and confusion surrounding their attempts to pay their overdue utility bills.

Mayor Rideau apologized to both residents, suggesting that paying bills on time would save everyone money.

“Why wait until the last minute?” the mayor asked, “If I pay early, I save almost $5.”