East Bethel City Council approves water treatment plant bid

by Eric Hagen
Staff Writer

The East Bethel City Council Jan. 4 awarded a $1.88 million contract to Municipal Builders, Inc. of Andover to build a water treatment plant.

The decision by the council was unanimous, although there was discussion on whether a security fence should be constructed around the building or if the lawn should be irrigated. Ultimately, the council decided to not include the fence or irrigation, but those items could be added at a later date.

The $1.88 million contract includes the base bid of $1,737,300 to construct the water treatment plant and $145,000 to add a second water pressure filter for a total construction cost of $1,882,300.

The second pressure filter was bid out as an alternative because the city staff report stated the second filter may not be needed for five years until water capacity increases. However, the filter could be used as a back-up in case the first filter needs maintenance.

Municipal Builders was one of eight companies that bid on this project. The base bids ranged from $1,737,300 to $1,989,080. The second water filter bids ranged from $135,630 to $179,000.

The lowest base bid from Municipal Builders was still approximately 18 percent higher than the preliminary cost estimate.

According to City Engineer Craig Jochum, the filters and chemical feed systems had to be slightly larger that previously envisioned based on the results of a pilot study, which was a small scale treatment plant used to simulate the full scale plant. This increased the equipment and building size costs.

Correction of muck soils for the utilities and access road also contributed to the bids being higher than the engineer’s estimate, Jochum said.

Construction will start in April and the treatment plant will be operational by Sept. 1, he said.

Jochum said the water treatment plant was once scheduled to be completed sooner, but the state shutdown led to the review process of the plans with the Minnesota Department of Health taking longer than expected.

The water tower completion date is in October. Jochum said city water system is estimated to be operational by Nov. 1.

How this plant differs from last option

Municipal Builders is the same company that the previous city council hired in December 2010 to build a $5.8 million water treatment plant. When three new elected officials took office in January 2011, they voted to suspend the sewer and water project pending further research.

The council ordered water tests to be done, which had not happened before, and sought advice from Jochum, who was not involved in planning for the $5.8 million water treatment plant. The more expensive plant was designed by Bolton and Menk, a Ramsey company.

When the council canceled the $5.8 million water treatment contract, the city had to pay for the work Municipal Builders had already done. The city ended up paying the Andover-based company $123,917.

The big difference between the $5.8 million and $1.88 million water treatment plants is the design of the filters and the square footage of the buildings, according to Jochum.

The more expensive treatment plant was designed with gravity filters to treat the water, while the less expensive option the council chose was designed with pressure filters, Jochum said.

In a gravity system, the water moves through the filter via gravity and then discharges to a clear well. Pumps then take the water from the clear well and pump it to the water tower. The clear wells are also used for system storage.

In a pressure filter system, the water is forced through the filter via pressure (about 70 psi) and can either be discharged to a clear well or directly to the water tower. The system East Bethel is using will discharge the treated water directly to the water tower, according to Jochum.

Pressure filters are much smaller than gravity filters, which reduced the size of the building, Jochum said.

Landform Vice President Robert Schunicht, who the city council hired early last year to review the sewer and water development options, said during the April 20, 2011 council meeting that pressure filters were the way to go if on a budget.

He said operators tend to like gravity filter systems better because they are easier to clean out. Gravity systems use concrete chambers, while pressure filter systems use steel chambers.

A number of cities that have built pressure filter systems have converted to gravity systems later on, Schunicht said.

City Administrator Jack Davis said during the same meeting last April that a treatment plant with pressure filters was the economical way to go until the city has a larger customer base. As the system grows, there will be additional treatment plants, which could use the gravity filters, he said.

The capacity of the $1.88 million treatment plant the council approved will be 1,300 gallons per minute (gpm). The capacity of the $5.8 million treatment plant was 1,500 gpm.

Both water treatment plants were designed to remove iron and manganese from the water. A little bit of these materials in drinking water is not a health hazard, but too much iron in water causes brown stains and too much manganese causes black stains, according to Jochum.

Debating the fence, irrigation

Councilmember Steve Voss made the initial motion to approve the water treatment plant base bid and alternative bid of the second water filter.

Councilmember Heidi Moegerle asked about the exclusion of the fence and the irrigation. The fence bid was $22,251.20. The irrigation bid was $7,000.

Voss did not feel irrigation was needed because the plant is in a low traffic area at the end of the Taylor Street cul-de-sac.

He asked Jochum the purpose of having the fence around the building. Jochum responded that it would provide extra security considering the area is remote.

Voss said they would be “putting a fence around a secure building,” and that a chain link fence without any barbed wire would not stop someone. It would attract kids who would want to climb the fence, he said.

The only unsecured piece of equipment outside the building is the generator, but it will be about the size of a truck and Jochum could not envision anyone trying to steal it.

The main concern would be vandalism. Moegerle said a wide open area with a generator in it could attract vandalism of the generator and having the storm water pond within the fence is another factor to consider from a liability standpoint.

Councilmember Robert DeRoche Jr., who thought the fence was a good idea, asked City Attorney Mark Vierling what the city’s liability would be if it did not put up the fence.

Vierling said the issue the cities usually take a look at is homeland security because the building is for water operations.

Boyer also thought the fence was a good idea, but suggested the city request funding for the fence through the Department of Homeland Security. Although the council did not approve the fence bid, Davis said it could be added as a change order during construction.

There was not as much discussion on the irrigation. Boyer wanted to include it because city staff would have to water the grass otherwise. Moegerle could understand not having the irrigation system until the area gets more traffic.

Eric Hagen is at [email protected]