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Willmar City Council OKs Graham bid for treatment plant project

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WILLMAR -- The Willmar City Council held a brief special meeting Monday afternoon and approved a contract with Graham Construction Services Inc. of Eagan to build the treatment plant portion of the city's new wastewater treatment and conveyance project.

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The city opened the construction bids on July 31 and Graham submitted the lowest bid among six companies vying for the project.

But council action to award the contract to Graham had been held up by a legal challenge from the second-lowest bidder, Gridor Construction Inc. of Buffalo.

During a hearing in Kandiyohi County District Court on Aug. 27, an attorney for Gridor alleged the Graham bid had irregularities and ambiguities that made Graham's low bid of $49.1 million bid unresponsive to project specifications.

Attorneys representing the city and Graham said Graham was the responsive low bidder and said there were no material mistakes or ambiguities in the bid form.

District Judge Michael Thompson on Sept. 2 denied Gridor's motion to restrain the city from awarding the contract to Graham.

Rhonda Rae, program manager for project consultant Donohue and Associates recommended the council award the contract to Graham.

Council member Doug Reese, who represents the Fourth Ward where the old plant is located, said in an interview after the meeting that he ran for and was elected to the City Council in 1987 to either correct the plant's odor problem or have the plant moved out of town.

"It's taken since 1987,'' he said. "What I say about what we did tonight in passing that Graham is awarded the contract is I'm glad it was approved and let's get it done.''

The project's budget is set at $86.2 million. The council has awarded three other contracts for construction of the pressure pipe bringing industrial waste and the gravity interceptor sewer bringing municipal waste to the treatment site, located west of Willmar.

Mayor delays 2009 budget presentation

The council's Finance Committee met right after the council adjourned and was to have heard Mayor Les Heitke present his 2009 budget proposal.

Instead, Heitke delayed the presentation until the regular council meeting Monday night in order for the presentation to be televised to a wider audience on WRAC, the local access channel.

Heitke also said city staff members were still working on the rate structure to pay for the new wastewater treatment facility and how it will affect the budget, and are still planning how local option sales tax revenue will be used on industrial park projects.

Also, the mayor said he's asked department heads to revisit their requests for new equipment, and he said he was still trying to find money for solving railroad quiet zones and storm water problems.

In other action, the committee voted to revise the donation policy to conform to state law. Under the present policy, the council votes to accept any donation of $1,000 or more. Staff had suggested the amount be increased to $5,000 or more to streamline council meetings, but the council rejected the suggestion.

Meanwhile, City Attorney Rich Ronning notified City Administrator Michael Schmit that state law requires a resolution of approval without taking into consideration the amount of the gift.

Besides changing policy to conform to state law, the committee voted to accept a gift of $1,653 from the Willmar Baseball Boosters Association to pay for additional fencing and L screens for the ball fields.

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