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Willmar, Minn., water tower maintenance contract approved

The Willmar Municipal Utilities’ 200,000-gallon water tower at Ridgewater College will receive fresh paint and other work under a renovation and maintenance contract approved Monday by the Willmar Municipal Utilities Commission. Tribune photo by Gary Miller

WILLMAR — The Willmar Municipal Utilities’ 200,000-gallon water tower at Ridgewater College will receive fresh paint and other work under a renovation and maintenance contract approved Monday by the Utilities Commission.

The commission approved a $323,745 contract with Utility Service Co. Inc. of Perry, Ga., for interior and exterior painting, repairs and warranty work that will extend the water tower’s years of service.

Utility Service was one of two firms submitting proposals for the project. The utility also received a costlier proposal from SEH Design/Build Inc. of St. Paul for $432,500.

The commission’s Planning Committee considered the proposals March 5 and members said both proposals appear to be qualified but recommended the commission approve the Utility Service proposal.

Bart Murphy, director of water and heating, said the utility had budgeted $390,000 because the utility was anticipating during the budgeting process last year that the project would be a capital improvement. However, the project is being recommended as an expense item and will flow through the budget that way, he said.

The 12-year contract includes spreading the initial larger cost over the first five years and paying the remainder in smaller annual amounts during the following years. During the 10th year, the contractor will return to renovate the exterior and will renovate the interior in the 12th year.

Commissioner Joe Gimse asked Murphy why the bid proposals varied by more than $100,000. Murphy said he did not know how contractors determine their prices.

Murphy said the proposals were essentially the same for the initial renovation, which is the major part of the cost. He said SEH offered a much higher price for the same work.

According to Murphy, the exterior color of the tower will remain the same.  

In other business, the commission approved a Planning Committee recommendation to reject two bids for rebuilding and repairing the mobile substation transformer. The utility received two bids: $213,624 from Solomon Corporation of Solomon, Kan., and $231,405 from Jordan Transformer of Jordan, Minn.

The committee recommended bids be rejected because the bidders had included their own terms, conditions and warranties in their proposals, which did not conform to what the bid specification requested, said Assistant Engineer Jeron Smith.

Smith said he concurred with City Attorney Robert Scott to reject both bids and issue requests for new bids with more detail on how to follow the contract documents and avoid the same problem happening again.

Smith said a third vendor had expressed interest in the project but did not submit its bid in time. He hopes the vendor would provide a bid the second time.

Also Monday, the commission was told that refunds in the form of a credit on the heating bill would be applied to customers of the utility’s heating district.

As a result of pre-established calculations following the 2011 and 2012 heating seasons, the utility collected more funds than required for the heating season, explained Murphy. The utility will be refunding about $34,000 to heating customers, based on their usage.

In other business, City Council member Jim Dokken, attending in the absence of commission liaison Bruce DeBlieck who was at national utility conference in Washington D.C., thanked the commission for the first quarter intergovernmental transfer payment.

The $498,893 payment is the first of four totaling about $1.9 million for 2013. The utility annually makes such transfer payments, also known as payments in lieu of taxes, to the city general fund.

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