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Two Harbors City Council: Bids rejected for 2017 road, alley improvements

Shown is the alley north of Second Avenue between Fifth and Fourth Streets. The pothole-ridden alley was on the schedule to be fixed this summer. (News-Chronicle file photo by Adelle Whitefoot)

The Two Harbors City Council unanimously approved a resolution to reject all the bids for the city's Capital Improvement Plan 2017 road and alley improvement project during a meeting Monday.

The lowest bid was made by Low Impact Excavators in the amount of $576,118.62, about $239,118 over the engineer's estimate for the project. The project included Ninth Avenue between Sixth and Seventh Streets; 13th Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues; Ninth Street between 10th and 11th Avenues; the alley north of Second Avenue between Fourth and Fifth Streets; and the alley north of Fourth Avenue between Fifth and Sixth Streets.

Bolton and Menk did a detailed analysis of the bids and compared them to the estimate item by item. New city engineer Joe Rhein of Bolton and Menk said the analysis of the bids showed that each part of the project went up anywhere from 24 percent to 100 percent, in the case of one alley.

"So the assessments, if applied per the city's policy, would go up by the corresponding amount," Rhein said. "If there is that significant of a cost increase, it really should be shared with the property owners by recalling the public hearing and informing them of the cost change and cost increase before you could award a contract, which would obviously push back the project timeline."

Rhein said the other option was to keep the assessments the same and the city would have to absorb the difference in cost.

"Neither one of those options seemed viable at this time, so after a discussion we reached the conclusion that the better plan was to take what we learned from these sets of bids and set a new course for plans for road and alley projects in 2018," he told the council.

The projects that will be done in 2018 has yet to be decided, but will decided by the City Council.

"The next step for us is to meet as staff, dust off the CIP, look through some projects, get some input from public works and figure out what we want to bring forward to the council," said city administrator Dan Walker.

According to Walker, survey work will be done this fall so the city can get more accurate information before the public hearing, which was the issue the city ran into this year.

"We didn't have the accurate survey information until after the public hearing, but that information wasn't conveyed to the staff or the City Council, so we'll do a better job of getting grip on that," Walker said. "We need to have a much better communication between the engineers, the city staff, administration and the council so that we can be more transparent on what we are trying to do here."

Though the council voted not to move forward with the road and alley projects this year, council members spoke up at the meeting saying they still stand behind the city's CIP.

"I just want everyone to know, that even though the council is rejecting all of these bids, I think everybody sitting here still stands behind our CIP 100 percent," Councilor Jerry Norberg said.

Councilor Miles Woodruff said he feels the same way.

"I was very disappointed where the bid came in at, but in the long run, I think it makes more sense this way because we don't want to put more of a burden on the taxpayers than what is necessary," he said. "You just have to have faith. It will still get done."

The money from the general fund and campground fund that was allocated this year for the road projects will still be moved into the street improvement and will be available to the city in 2018 for projects.

"It's always possible that we could double down next year and do the 2017 and 2018 projects if we have a flavor for that," Norberg said. "We are not forgetting about 2017, we just don't think it's worth what the bids came in at."

Council president Cathy Erickson said the council will be able to learn from this process and use what they've learned as the city moves forward.

"I think our first go-around we had some unexpected things happen or things that maybe we just weren't prepared to understand," she said. "I think we had some communication gaps that are now going to get filled so that we can better understand the process as a council so we then can inform our community on that process."

Adelle Whitefoot

Adelle Whitefoot is a Michigan native who moved to Minnesota in Sept. 2014 when she started as a reporter for the News-Chronicle. She graduated from Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Mich., in 2012 with a bachelor's in English writing and has been a professional photographer since 2011. Whitefoot is the beat writer for the Two Harbors City Council.

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