By Sarah Pridgeon
Having discovered that construction of Sundance’s transfer station will cost almost double the amount currently available for the project, the city council met in special session on Tuesday to discuss its options for moving forward. Of the two bids received, from Timberline Services and S&S Builders of Gillette, neither could be accepted as both exceeded the current project budget.
“There are two options now available,” explained Ken Schreuder, Senior Engineer, speaking on behalf of city engineers Trihydro. “The first is to reject all bids and re-issue a modified bid package when funding is secured, and the second is to request revised bids with scope items that can be completed with available funds, and phase construction such that work is completed as more funding is available.”
“How long have you known about this?” queried Clerk-Treasurer Kathy Lenz, to which Schreuder responded that Trihydro had contacted the city during the bid process, when they became concerned that bids would come in higher than the engineer’s estimate.
“It wasn’t identified as an issue until we got the final design package as part of the bid process,” said Schreuder.
Trihydro’s recommendation, on the understanding that the city would like to proceed with as much of the project as soon as possible, was the second option. Schreuder explained that, should the council choose that option, Trihydro would begin work tomorrow on a modified bid schedule and forward it to the bidders to give them both the option to revise.
Schreuder also told the council that language would be sent to Lenz to help her submit an application to the State Lands and Investments Board to secure additional funding for phase two of construction. This would allow the city to guarantee to the two bidders that the second phase can begin in July 2013, as the first phase is completed, allowing construction to be finished by September 2013.
Although the deadline for applications for SLIB’s December meeting has already passed, Lenz confirmed that the submission will be accepted if it’s sent in quickly. She explained that the city will need to come up with money to match the additional grant.
“As tight as the budget was this year, I can’t see us coming up with enough,” she commented.
To combat this problem, a loan was proposed to cover the match, to be paid back at approximately $15,000 per year over the next 20 years. Lenz noted that, with new legislation pending regarding landfill stations, it may be possible to obtain funding to pay back that loan.
“Without being able to prove a match, we really couldn’t put in for this grant, so we would need a loan until we can pursue funding to pay it off,” she explained. “Worst case scenario would be that we couldn’t get that funding and would have to raise tipping rates to cover the loan payments.”
Scaling down the project to fit the available funding would not be an option, explained Mayor Paul Brooks, because the increases were made where they were found to be necessary. The city has also already purchased the trailers appropriate for the current size of the transfer station.
Wade Habeck, speaking on behalf of Timberline Services, suggested that both bidders might be able to look at different options and make suggestions for saving money during construction. Schreuder agreed that such proposals would be helpful when the revised bids are submitted, but stressed that only a certain amount can be changed before the state fire marshal permit is invalidated.
Mayor Brooks commented that there are several good reasons for the council to move forward with option two, the first being that the city could “look the Department of Environmental Quality in the eye and say we’re moving ahead as fast as we can.”
Schreuder agreed with this hypothesis, saying, “I find it hard to believe DEQ wouldn’t give you the time you need to complete the transfer station if you’re making clear efforts to move forward.”
Another advantage of option two is that the Sundance landfill project is the only one on the table at the upcoming SLIB meeting. “We’re on the front line, but there are many other landfills coming up, and soon the big towns will want that money too,” said Mayor Brooks, further commenting that waiting might be an option, but the price of completing the transfer station will only continue to go up.
SLIB also already thinks the landfill project is worthwhile and, added Schreuder, and would likely be more inclined to provide additional funding to see it finished than leave it to flounder.
After discussing its options, the council passed a motion to move ahead with the second option to request revised bids with scope items that can be completed with available funds and phase construction to be completed as more funding becomes available. The council also passed a motion to commission Lenz to put in a SLIB application and apply for a loan to cover the match.