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Two Harbors lift station bonding, sales tax requests headed to capitol

The Two Harbors City Council accepted a $1.6 million bid for rehabilitation work on the city's lift station during its meeting Monday, Feb. 26.

The accepted bid came from Shanks Constructors of Brooklyn Park, Minn.

An additional estimate of $200,000 for engineering and design costs would be included in the total project costs, according to Brian Guldan, an environmental project engineer with Bolton and Menk, who was there to explain the project to the Council during Monday's agenda meeting.

The bid was accepted unanimously and several councilors said they were happy the bid came in under the estimate.

The $1.6 million bid came in slightly under the $1.75 million originally estimated by Bolton and Menk.

Mayor Chris Swanson said during the agenda meeting that the repairs and updates to the station were originally expected to cost $1.1 million, but that cost was driven up after the lift station was damaged by flooding in July.

In the July storm, rain coincided with a generator failure, causing the lift station to flood. The engineering firm Bolton and Menk had already started on plans to upgrade the lift station and, after the flood, recommended that the city also install new pumps that could run in dry and flooded conditions as well as replace all electrical equipment.

The main lift station, located behind the Lake Superior School District's Two Harbors bus garage, is designed to move wastewater from a lower elevation up over a hill into the gravity flow system.

In Two Harbors, it pumps over Skunk Creek and over the hill through two above-ground force mains, which discharge back into the gravity flow system and into the wastewater treatment facility.

Council to request bonding for lift station

To help fund the lift station project, the council unanimously passed a resolution authorizing City staff to submit a bonding request to the Minnesota State Legislature for 50 percent of the total lift station project cost up to $1 million.

At last week's special meeting to discuss 2018 priorities, the City Council had intended to submit their bonding request to state Legislature for bathhouse construction at the Burlington Bay Campground. However, Councilor Cathy Erickson said Monday that the Finance and Budget committee met earlier in the day and believed there weren't enough details ready for to propose that state but the lift station presented a "shovel-ready" opportunity.

"As of tonight, we have some very good numbers on the main lift station, we also have some circumstances that caused the project to be higher in cost than we had originally anticipated," Erickson said. "This is a project that is funded by the City of Two Harbors through a loan program so if we could get some support for this project, it seems like it would make a lot of sense that we could make a really good proposal to the legislature for some bonding support for this project."

The Council must now have a state legislator sponsor its bonding request for it to be included in the larger omnibus bonding bill.

Councilor Jerry Norberg said he believes asking for 50 percent of total project costs shows the state the project is a partnership with the city, which could give them a better chance of actually getting the money.

"A 50-50 match shows the state we have skin in the game, and that's the number we thought would be a fair number where they would take us seriously," Norberg said.

The City has gone to the Legislature with a bonding request for waterfront development in the past, but that did not come to fruition.

Local option sales tax heads to capitol

The Council also unanimously passed a resolution authorizing the city administrator to draft language for a local option sales tax for consideration in the 2018 Minnesota State Legislative session.

The Council would like to raise the city's sales tax 0.5 percent, which will be used on roads and infrastructure.

To implement the raise in sales tax, the city will have to put the raise to a referendum vote and have the state Legislature pass special legislation to raise it.

Jimmy Lovrien

Jimmy Lovrien is a reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. He spent the summer of 2015 as an intern for the Duluth News Tribune and was hired full time in October 2017 as a reporter for the Weekly Observer. He also reported for the Lake County News-Chronicle in 2017-18. Lovrien grew up in Alexandria, Minn., but moved to Duluth in 2013 to attend The College of St. Scholastica. Lovrien graduated from St. Scholastica in 2017 with a bachelor's degree in English and history. He also spent a summer studying journalism at the University of California, Berkeley.

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