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Columbus Junction wastewater compliance project bids double estimate

Columbus Junction wastewater compliance project bids double estimate

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Columbus Junction City Hall

Columbus Junction City Hall.

COLUMBUS JUNCTION — A nearly four-year-old effort by Columbus Junction to meet revised Iowa Department of Natural Resource wastewater treatment standards appeared ready to move forward during the city council’s regular meeting Wednesday, but those plans quickly changed.

After holding a public hearing on a project that would lead to the city’s compliance with the new standards, a bid opening was held, but three of the five submitted bids were more than double the engineer’s estimated $785,000 cost of the project. Meanwhile, the other two, including the apparent low bid, were both around $1.4 million.

WRH, Anamosa, submitted that apparent low bid of $1,395,000, while the other bids ranged from $1,447,000 to $1,678,000. The work would include running a direct discharge pipe with a UV disinfection system from the city’s lagoon to the Iowa River. The proposed work would help the city meet new ammonia standards the DNR notified the city about in 2017.

Project engineer Matt Walker, French-Reneker, Fairfield, said the high bids were unexpected.

“I know there has been a lot of volatility because of COVID, but I’m surprised there has been that much,” Walker said after opening and reading the bids.

He suggested the council accept the bids, but not approve the low bid. That would provide Walker and city officials time to review the bid numbers and determine what it would financially take to move forward with the project.

The city has already been awarded a $300,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) for the work and was planning to borrow the remaining cost through the State Revolving Loan Fund.

Walker said the current interest rate was 2%, but the city would need to know what any new rate would be if it chose to borrow more revolving loan funds.

Mayor Mark Huston also reminded council members the city had recently paid off a 20-year, $1 million loan for previous sewage lagoon improvements and was expecting over $200,000 in COVID relief funding that could be used on the project.

Walker said he would begin a review of the bids and discuss the issue with city staff to determine a reason for the high bids. He will report back to the council at its June 23 meeting.

In other action, the council met with Iowa Department of Transportation District V Engineer Bob Younie to discuss a proposed revised detour route for upcoming work on Iowa Highway 92.

According to Younie and an information packet on the project that he distributed to city officials and others, the proposed $22.5 project calls for the reconstruction of about nine miles of roadway from U.S. 218 east to 2nd Street in Columbus Junction.

Younie acknowledged the original detour that would use Iowa Highways 22 and 70 would likely not be used by the public. He requested the city council approve a revised detour that would use a large portion of the former Highway 70 route through Columbus Junction.

He said any damage to the city streets would be repaired by the state.

Younie also said he would ask the Columbus City City Council to allow the DOT to designate several streets in that community for the detour route.

In final action, the council accepted a $3,327 bid from Karl Emergency Vehicles, Des Moines, for safety equipment for a new city truck.

The council also agreed to investigate repair work needed at the Columbus Community Heritage Center, following a report from center volunteer Gloria Newell.


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