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Wastewater project bids higher than anticipated

Greg Kimman of the engineering firm Short Elliot Hendrickson Inc. (SEH) told the Backus City Council at the June 3 regular meeting that bids for drilling for the wastewater project came in above the cost estimate.

Bids for the project were opened Thursday, May 30. Kimman said there were four bids ranging from $2.5 million to $4 million. This was beyond the $1,926,000 engineer’s estimate. The apparent low bidder at this time is RJS Construction of Superior, Wis.

Kimman said the bids came at a higher price because the late spring set local contractors back, causing them to increase their prices. The recent spike in gas prices was also suggested as a reason.

Because the cost of the project exceeded the estimate, Kimman asked for time to research options for reducing the project cost and acquiring more funds.

Kimman said money could be saved on materials. He said he might be able to reduce the cost by up to $200,000-$250,000. He said some of the expenses could be saved if the Pine River Area Sanitary Sewer District (PRASD) would allow the city to eliminate an emergency overflow tank from the plans.

Kimman said the overflow tank is a backup system in case of power outages. He suggested the tank should not be needed, as PRASD is powered by Minnesota Power, has backup generators and has a digester that could avert any problems.

“All three of those would need to fail before you would have to tap into your emergency overflow tank,” Kimman said.

Furthermore, Kimman said the sewer pipes might provide sufficient space in case of a power outage.

City Clerk Jeff Turk said the city will be receiving an estimated $250,000 for costs incurred in the wastewater project. He suggested that money could be used to pay for the additional cost of the recent bid.

Kimman also asked the city to authorize SEH to apply to the Public Facilities Authority (PFA) for a loan through the Intended Use Plan. Because the application was needed by Friday, June 7, he asked the council to approve the request. It did so.

Kimman asked the council to recess this month’s regular meeting to allow SEH time to consult with Cass County Rural Development and the lowest bidder for the project. Kimman also asked the council to arrange a sewer committee meeting to discuss cost saving measures with PRASD.

The sewer committee meeting was scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday, June 11, and the meeting was recessed and scheduled to continue immediately after the sewer committee meeting at approximately 11 a.m. Both meetings are public.

In related news, Backus city water/sewer operator Lee Bundy introduced a proposal by an unnamed business to purchase the city’s current drain field at the end of Wood Street.

Bundy was seeking permission from city to move forward with negotiations for the sale of the three-acre drain field. The influent and affluent pipes of the storage tanks would need to be disconnected and plugged. This would put the property back on the city tax roll.

Bundy explained that the city would save $17,500 by selling the property in this case because they would not require the removal of the drain field pipes or tanks.

Bundy said he has a verbal commitment from the concerned party, but would like to pursue a written document. Turk said the city attorney would need to be consulted to determine if the property would need to go to public bids.

Bundy suggested that its former use as a drain field would mean the property would only be suitable for special use, and as such might not require bids.