Cole Water Tank project delayed until spring

By Sarah Pridgeon
Re-assembling the Cole Water Storage Tank in its new location is a project that must wait until spring, following advice from Tammy Reed of Trihydro at this month’s regular meeting of the Sundance City Council. Just one bid was received for the project at an amount considerably higher than budgeted, due to the extra costs of construction during the winter.
“We received one bid and it came in close to $180,000 over our estimate, which would put the deficit for the entire project for the tank re-assemblage close to $450,000,” said Reed.
Mayor Brooks confirmed that, because the bid is considerably over the budget, the city has the right to reject it. Council Member Sheryl Klocker commented that waiting until spring is financially the best thing the city can do, to the agreement of all, and a motion was passed to not accept the bid and delay until spring.
The bidder’s references were glowing in terms of water line work performed for other clients in the past, she explained, and the subcontractors for rock excavations, rock anchors and grouting also checked out positively. But though qualified and responsive, the bidder was not willing to negotiate on price.
“He said that the prices he gave were a reflection of the extra processes he would have to have in place to perform winter construction and be able to keep water temperatures, mix concrete and so on at favourable temperatures. So he was not willing to negotiate on the items we felt were high,” Reed explained.
Accepting the bid would require the city to ask for additional money at the November meeting of the Wyoming Water Development Commission. This would be a risk because there is no guarantee that the funding would be approved, said Reed, which would necessitate finding an alternative mechanism to fill the deficit.
“We do believe that, if you were to bid in the spring, you would see more competition. The timeline we had for construction of the Cole tank was tight and didn’t allow for a lot of adverse weather days – it was pretty constrained,” she said.
“Some of the potential bidders did not bid because they were trying to button up other projects and felt that they could not meet the timeline.”
Clerk-Treasurer Kathy Lenz explained that $152,000 is left over from the city road project with WYDOT that was completed a couple of years ago but has now been paid in full. This could be put towards the project to pay the city’s share.
“If Water Development did award us money at the November meeting, it’s a 75-25 split and at this overage without any change orders, our part would be $148,000,” she said.
“If we didn’t get the extra money, we’d have to find an alternative because, by signing all these grant document papers we’re required to put that tank on the hill. And if we don’t put that tank on the hill, we would have to pay back the $950,000 that we’ve been awarded already.”
Mayor Paul Brooks explained that his major concern with awarding the bid would be that no money would remain in the event of a change order. If the contractor presented a change order, the city would be forced to take out a loan and raise the water rates to pay it.
“If he came in with a 10 percent overage for a change order, I can assure you we can’t make that,” he said.
“If there’s one mistake, one accident, we’re going for state revolving funds, which means we’re raising our water rates again and I don’t know how anxious the council is to do that. I know the mayor is not tremendously anxious to do that.”
Reed confirmed the mayor’s hypothesis that the bids are likely to come in much lower in the spring, by perhaps as much as a couple of hundred thousand dollars.
“The estimate we put together we thought was conservative – we were really surprised at how high the bid came in,” she said.
The conversation turned to the timeframe if the project is delayed until the spring and the bid re-issued in January or February.
“Moving into spring construction, they’re not heading into the winter but out of it. The big fear was that starting this in late October, they’re moving right into the dead of winter – though I do realize that spring weather can be unpredictable,” said Reed.
“The timeframe was 90 days to get the tank up as quickly as possible, but we could adjust that timeframe…we would want to get it up before the peak season hits in June.”
Reed went on to explain that members of the city staff believe that recent water quality issues were caused at least in part by the tank being offline, but that the city engineers do not agree with this suggestion.
“It really doesn’t make sense to us that that would be the case, it seems like a separate issue. Engineering and technical-wise, we can’t figure out how it would be connected,” she clarified.
She also explained that delaying the problem is unlikely to affect the physical condition of the transmission line and that a check valve has been installed to stabilize the pressure fluctuations.
Council Member Hugh Palmer abstained from the vote as he did not feel the council had access to sufficient information to make a decision due to the absence from the meeting of Public Works Director Larry Schommer.