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Willmar's City Council selects firm for Lakeland Drive project

WILLMAR -- After considerable discussion Monday night, the Willmar City Council voted 8-0 to select Bollig Inc. of Willmar over the staff-recommended firm Donohue and Associates of Willmar as the engineering firm to design construction of the proposed Lakeland Drive sewer, lift station and street reconstruction project.

Bollig's $320,261 proposal was the lowest cost of proposals submitted by six firms that included Donohue. Donohue proposed $368,789 or $48,000 more than Bollig.

But Donohue ranked highest in an evaluation process that ranked Bollig fourth.

The council selected Bollig after the Public Works/Safety Committee took no action last week to endorse staff's recommendation to hire Donohue. Staff had determined Donohue's proposal best addressed project scope and city needs.

Staff had said Donohue had a better understanding and capacity to do the project, had past experience with the city, and had the best combination of price, technical capacity and ability to deliver the product.

Ron Christianson, a Public Works Committee member, said he had been struggling with the issue. He said Bollig is local and he asked to hear from Bollig.

"We are elected to oversee the purse strings of the taxpayers,'' Christianson said. The price difference between the two firms may not seem like much in an $8.4 million project, "but it does to taxpayers,'' he said.

Bollig, former assistant city engineer, said his firm, which opened in 2007, looks for the best quality product for his clients. He said his firm is the most qualified at the lowest price and said the firm AE2S of Grand Forks, N.D., which will collaborate with Bollig on the sewer part of the project, is reputable.

Joshua Halvorson, Donohue project manager, said the firm is well qualified and has worked on past city projects. Also, he said the evaluation process is not new to the city and the notion behind the process is to get the most technically suited professional service at the best price. He said it doesn't necessarily mean the lowest price.

Council members Doug Reese and Denis Anderson were torn over the issue. Steve Ahmann spoke in favor of Bollig as the lowest cost firm. Jim Dokken said Bollig "did its homework'' and he spoke in favor of saving the cost difference.

In an interview after the meeting, Bollig said he was extremely excited.

"This is a great opportunity not only for Bollig but the commitment from City Council to choose the local quality firm and we're just truly excited,'' Bollig said. "My birthday's tomorrow, so this is an awesome birthday present.''

Halvorson said it was unfortunate that the council delivered primarily on price. He said the request for proposal said the contract would be awarded on a collaboration of both technical qualifications and price.

"Obviously tonight the council award was solely based on price and not a combination of the two. Donohue will still continue to work for the city under contract for the western interceptor project,'' Halvorson said.

"We were really looking forward to this Lakeland project. We have done a lot of work in the past on this project. We know the project quite well and it's just unfortunate we were unable to obtain it tonight,'' he said.

In other business, the council approved a recommendation by the Public Works/Safety Committee to award a $3,069,585 contract with Geislinger & Sons Inc. of Watkins for construction of the western interceptor sanitary sewer line. Donohue is the engineer for the project.

Also, the committee approved a $505,769 contract with Geislinger & Sons for construction of a storm sewer line that will run parallel to a portion of the western interceptor.

The Geislinger bid was one of seven bids opened in July for the project. The highest bid was $4,855,182. The engineer's estimate was $4,381,880. Financing for the project includes a loan from the Minnesota Public Facilities Authority and city funds.

Revenue from the local option sales tax will also be used because the interceptor sewer will travel through a portion of the former airport where local option sales tax revenue will be used to develop a new industrial park.

The 2.46-mile western interceptor is proposed to be constructed along the city's western border and will serve the new industrial park and west and northwest Willmar where the current sanitary sewer system is at capacity.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150