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Water Pumping Project Finishes $250,000 Under Budget

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The construction of a new water pumping station came in at about $260,000 under budget, according to officials at a Bloomington Utilities Service Board meeting on Feb. 24.

Michael Hicks, the Utilities Department’s capital projects manager, submitted a change order on the $6.5 million project.

“The project is complete and with the approval of this change order we can close out the project with our contractor,” Hicks said.

The construction was performed by the Orleans-based company Layne Incorporated, but the engineering was done by the Kansas-based company Black and Veatch.

Adam Westerman, from Black and Veatch, said the project did not cost as much as expected, in part because the contractor didn’t spend its full budget for items like office supplies, equipment, and furniture.

Board member Jason Banach asked Westerman about the city paying for a contractor’s supplies.

“Is this something we typically pay for, their pens and pencils?” Banach asked.

“We’ve handled it different ways historically, but for the past eight years we’ve taken on the cost of that,” Westerman said, “And anything left comes back to the city.”

The board later voted unanimously to approve the change order.

Cold Weather Creates Chilly Sitution For Utilities Department

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The Bloomington Utilities Department has dealt with an increase in water main breaks and customer service issues due to the cold weather in recent weeks. On January 27th Tom Axson, the department’s assistant director of transmission and distribution, told the Utilities Service Board there had been eight broken water mains reported in the previous ten days.

“We’ve also responded to a lot of customer calls about no water and broken pipes,” Axson said, “We’re going to keep doing what we do. In the meantime we’ve cleaned a lot of trucks and fixed a lot of equipment trying to stay ready.”

Utilities Department Director Patrick Murphy said the department purchased new equipment for the crews that do the repair work.

“We just made an additional equipment purchase, and by equipment I mean new Carhartt coats and boots, restocking our folks,” Murphy said, “One of the important things for the DND crews is rubber boots.”

Board member Jeff Ehman asked about the fact that the city has still not finished its annual leaf pick-up. The city planned to finish by December 19th.

Murphy said leaves can cause problems for the department, but that the situation is better than it was several months ago.

“They’ve done quite a bit and it’s not as much of an issue now,” Murphy asid.

Axson said that in the past, the city has used equipment to scrape frozen leaves off of the ground in order to haul them away.

Bloomington Utilities Department Give Up Trying To Collect Nearly $23,000 Bills

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The Bloomington Utilities Department is formally giving up on collecting almost $23,000 in overdue bills. Each year the department declares certain bills to be, as it calls them, uncollectable.

Yesterday the department’s assistant financial director, Michael Horstman, told the Utilities Service Board that 673  wastewater bills and 691 water bills fit the criteria for the department to officially stop attempting to collect them.

Sam Frank, chair of the board’s finance sub-committee, said that doesn’t mean the city might not collect some of the money.

“The finance sub-committee met before this meeting and went over these and we have recommended that these be approved to be written off,” Horstman says, “These can be collected any time later on, and this is more of just an accounting transaction.”

All of the affected accounts were inactive and more than ninety days overdue. Horstman said no more than forty dollars was owed on a given account. The board voted unanimously to write off the uncollectible bills.

Final Payment on Dam Repair Project Approved

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The Bloomington Utilities Service Board approved the final payment December 2nd on a project to repair the Griffy Dam. Utilities Engineer Phil Peden said the company doing the work, Dave O’Mara Contractors, is mostly finished with the project, which has been in progress since the city drained Griffy Lake last year.

The repair work was funded primarily by a federal grant. The total cost was about one-point-four million dollars.

Bloomington Utilities Service Board deals with complications working with private contractors

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The Bloomington Utilities Service Board dealt with some complications of working with private contractors at its meeting on Monday.

The City Utilities Department frequently hires companies to perform engineering or construction work.

Capital Projects Manager Mike Hicks explained a recent issue with two of those companies. The contractors are working on projects to improve water mains and to expand the Monroe Water Treatment Plant.

“In the execution of the work, damage was caused to Monroe County Highway roads,” Hicks said, “It’s caused by two factors, one being hauling and the other excavation from work on a water main. Our position is that there are two contractors responsible for the repairs, F.A. Wilhelm and Howl contractors. “

Hicks said the contractors have refused to deal with the issue, despite the city’s attempts to contact them. So, he said the city needs to find a different contractor to repair the roads.

“Monroe County Highway Department wants this work done this season before the asphalt plants close so it’s come to the City of Bloomington Utilities taking action to find a paving contractor to make the repairs,” Hicks said.

The board approved spending $64,000 to pay Milestone Contractors to do the repairs. Hicks said the city would attempt to recoup that amount from the contractors that caused the damage. Later in the meeting, the board discussed how the Utilities Department chooses its contractors. The issue came up when Utilities Engineer Jane Fleig told the board that a large engineering contract would be awarded to the company Donohue and Associates.

Board member Jason Banach asked Flieg about the agreement and Fleig said they have asked for a proposal from an engineer at Donohue, but no bids.

The contract is for the design of a culvert project that extends from 2nd St. to Kirkwood Ave. in downtown Bloomington.

Banach asked why the Department didn’t solicit bids from other companies to do the work, and Department Director Pat Murphy responded.

“We have a long standing relationship with Donahue and we’ve worked with them extensively. They did the initial project, they did the Jordan River culvert and 2nd and Walnut,” Murphy said, “We feel it’s more of a continuation of the project because they know the history of the project and we wouldn’t be starting anew and we think they price they are proposing is fair and reasonable.”

The contract would be for about $400,000. Banach said he has problems awarding such large contracts without getting competitive bids.

“Cheaper isn’t better,” Murphy said.

Board member Pedro Roman said approving an agreement without seeking bids would not be unusual for the board, especially when for engineering contracts.

“We’re talking about engineering, the design, not the actual construction,” Roman said, “We never bid these things.”

Flieg said that, unlike construction contracts, the city is not legally required to solicit multiple bids for professional services such as engineering.

The board will consider whether to approve the contract with Donohue and Associates at its next meeting, which is scheduled for November 18.

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