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Board initially OKs lowest bid $25 million over MSD's budget

Initial approval recently was given to an ordinance appropriating $43.4 million for the first phase of construction of the Lower Meramec Wastewater Treatment Plant in Oakville by the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District Board of Trustees.

The board voted unanimously last week to give initial approval to the ordinance and will consider final approval of the measure Thursday, Oct. 9.

If adopted, the board's action would award a contract to Goodwin Brothers Construction, which submitted the lowest bid for construction of the new wastewater treatment plant.

However, the company's bid of $80,598,790 is $25.5 million more than the district's budget for the facility.

Other bidders were: Alberici Constructors Inc., $84,199,710; BSI Constructors Inc., $91,300,000; KCI Construction Co., $86,433,840; and Paric, $91,275,687.

However; despite being urged by longtime critic of MSD Tom Sullivan, as well as the representatives of Alberici Const-ructors Inc., Assistant Director of Engineering Brian Hoelscher told the board of trustees that it would not be feasible to rebid the contract.

In fact, Leroy Stromberg, chief operating officer for Alberici said at a recent district Program Management Committee meeting that rebidding the project could save at least $10 million to $15 million.

"We were second in the process that you had and were pretty disturbed in that we feel that somewhere along the line there was a huge failure here. I mean, normally you establish a budget and then you design to a budget.

"We spent a lot of money putting together a bid that we expected to be fairly close to $61 million or under ... We think in our opinion that there should be a rebid and some of the stuff should be taken out of the bid and take out some of the gold plating and get the fair dollar for the rate payers," Stromberg said.

In July, the district assigned Jacobs Civil Inc. with a the task of reviewing the CH2M Hill engineering estimate.

Results of the review showed shortfalls in the CH2M Hill estimate that could account for the estimate being off by $20 million.

According to Jacobs' review, pricing was low by approximately 10 to 15 percent in the categories of concrete, elevators and masonry.

Hoelscher said rebidding the contract would take MSD approximately another year and it would default on meeting its December 2006 deadline to comply with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Agency regulations.

Hoelscher said MSD also would have to go through the proposal and decide what to take out of the plan.

The district's general counsel, Randy Hayman, told board members that, based on conversations he has had with the DNR, it would not extend the deadline.

If the district fails to meet the deadline, it will be charged a $100 fee for the first day it is not in compliance with DNR, which can escalate to a fee of $10,000 a day.

Trustee Dee Joyce-Hayes, who said last month at the Program Management Committee meeting that she was concerned with the cost of the "campus-like atmosphere," said that the district could "only" realize a savings of $1 million by making the plant a totally utilitarian plant.

Hoelscher also emphasized that the "campus-like atmosphere" was something that was important to certain stake holders.

Hoelscher told the board that the proposed plant is necessary to meet the current and future needs of the district.

The plant eventually will support all of the wastewater in the Lower Meramec River area, which includes the Fine Road and Baumgartner lagoons, as well as the Fenton and Grand Glaize treatment plants, all of which will be closed down in the future.

Financing that will make up some of the deficit, will be available to the district from other projects it currently is working on that came in under budget, Hoelscher said.

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