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Change in sewer line tunneling method for $86M treatment plant will save city $50,000

WILLMAR -- The city will save $50,000 and reduce the risk of failure by letting a contractor use a different tunneling method at five locations along the interceptor sewer line.

The line is being constructed to carry municipal waste to the new wastewater treatment plant located west of town.

The savings will be realized by letting contractor S.R. Weidema switch from the micro-tunneling method to the guided boring method at five locations totaling 803 feet along the 14,826-foot interceptor line, which is part of the $86 million wastewater treatment project.

The Willmar City Council voted unanimously Monday night to approve the change after a lengthy discussion with an unsuccessful bidder for the tunneling job.

Harris Duininck of Duininck Bros. of Prinsburg said the council and project consultant Donohue and Associates would be changing the rules by allowing guided boring rather than micro-tunneling as specified in the bidding documents. He said all prospective contractors bid micro-tunneling.

"Our concern is the quality of work that's going to be done and that the taxpayers get what they asked for,'' Duininck told the council during the report of the Public Works/Safety Committee. The committee recommended the council approve the change in the tunneling method.

"If Weidema puts in micro-tunneling, wonderful. That's what you asked for, that's what you ought to get,'' Duininck said.

The change in tunneling method was suggested in September by Weidema to resolve any or all unforeseen obstacles. Under the revised method, Weidema will be responsible for any unknown subsurface conditions the contractor may encounter during work on the five required tunnels.

Tunnels are required under the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad tracks, County Road 15, two gas lines, and under First Street South at 28th Avenue. The remainder of the interceptor is being constructed by excavating an open trench. Rhonda Rae, Donohue program manager, said Donohue researched the requested method and recommended its use.

Rae and John Bryant, Donohue's lead project representative overseeing construction, explained that micro-tunneling involves a one-step process in which the boring mechanism could fail and would need to be excavated if it struck a large object like a boulder.

They said guided boring is a three-step process that uses a boring mechanism that has a movable shield that allows the boulder to be chiseled and manageable pieces to be removed, allowing the tunneling to proceed. Council member Bruce DeBlieck said the methods are different, but asked if the end product is the same, and would be reliable and last.

"The end product is the same,'' Rae said.

Mayor Les Heitke asked Bryant if the rules have been changed.

Bryant said the substitution is allowed by the contract, provided the substitution benefits the city based on Donohue's evaluation and the city's approval.

"We operated within the contract that allows for a substitution,'' he said.

Officials intend to put the $50,000 savings in the contingency fund.

In other business, the council voted 5-3 to join Kandiyohi County in applying for a $48,394 federal grant to install video cameras downtown and at county locations to enhance public safety and security. The city would receive $34,567 and the county would receive $13,827. Willmar's cameras would be located downtown.

The Public Works/Safety Committee recommended the city seek the grant.

City Administrator Michael Schmit said video cameras are fairly commonplace these days.

"Our intension is to place them in public areas. We rely on cameras in private locations to assist with law enforcement,'' he said.

Heitke said the discussion reminded him of discussion 20 to 30 years ago when the late Police Chief Lyle Goeddertz promoted the use of video cameras in strategic places around Willmar.

Council member Ron Christianson said he could not vote in favor of the grant.

"We seem to be losing our liberty and freedoms to do anything an inch at a time and now it's going a mile at a time,'' he said. "I've never been for public cameras. Private cameras, fine. I don't believe it's going to prevent crime. It will probably quicken the catching of criminals, but they don't prevent crime.''

Council member Tim Johnson said he had some reservations about the proposal as far as crime prevention. "The people that the cameras will observe act on impulse when they're committing crimes,'' he said.

Voting in favor of the grant application were Denis Anderson, Doug Reese, Steve Ahmann, Rick Fagerlie and Bruce DeBlieck.

Voting against were Christianson, Johnson and Jim Dokken.