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Backus Council accepts lowest bidder in wastewater treatment work

At a reconvened meeting Monday, June 10, the Backus City Council voted to accept the approximately $2,541,915.50 bid by RJS Construction for the city’s wastewater treatment project.

The bid was initially estimated to be under $1,926,688. The city was forced to find a way to pay for the $615,227.50 in extra cost.

The council heard the higher amount at its regular meeting June 3. Greg Kimman of Short Elliot Hendrickson Inc. (SEH) asked the council to recess that 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 the Pine River Area Sanitary Sewer District (PRASD).

Discussion with PRASD was held at 10 a.m. Monday, June 10, before the council reconvened its regular council meeting. Kimman said they discussed the possibility of removing an emergency overflow tank from the project plans. This exclusion would cut an estimated $50,000 from the project cost.

It was ultimately decided to keep the emergency overflow tank because the city might depend on it in case of certain sewer failures. In those circumstances, the tank would provide approximately eight hours of backup. With the installation of a special valve, storage within the sewage pipes could also be used, increasing that time to approximately 48 hours.

Kimman said the city could potentially save approximately $120,000 in materials by decreasing the thickness of pipe walls on the project. They would be replacing approximately 52,000 feet of pipe. Kimman said reduction in thickness could reduce the system pressure rating, but not more than acceptable. No decision was ultimately made on pipe thickness.

Kimman told the council of possible additional sources of funding for the project. Following Monday’s meeting, Kimman applied to the Minnesota Public Facilities Authority for a loan, with council approval. An application is also being processed for additional loans from Cass County Rural Development.

City Clerk Jeff Turk said the city will receive 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.

Mayor Kurt Sawyer said the city could consider using city reserves set aside for the cost of wastewater treatment to offset some of the project cost. Turk said he would prefer that they not drain any of the reserves.

Sawyer said the city could afford to use a portion of those reserves because the new wastewater project components would be under warranty. Therefore, they wouldn’t need to use reserves to replace any components that might fail. He said the city could pay back into those reserves during that warranty period.

It was agreed that the reserves should not be drained completely.

The $2,541,915.50 bid by RJS Construction was accepted unanimously. Council members Richie Bean and Ann Birge were absent.