The Fennimore Common Council learned earlier this month the start of the City’s wastewater treatment plant reconstruction project will be delayed.
Town and Country Engineering Project Engineer Ben Heidemann shared the news with the Council during its April 11 semi-monthly meeting as he provided an overview of work completed to date.
Soil borings were completed last month and show a large percentage of rock in the soil at the wastewater treatment plant, which Heidemann said was no surprise. The design of the new wastewater treatment plant is proceeding as well.
“Right now our design schedule calls for plans and specs to be completed by the end of July. What that would mean would be, if we completed those plans and specs by the end of July, we would take bids at the end of August, or Sept. 1, let’s call it,” Heidemann told the Council. “If we took bids September 1, we would be starting construction Oct. 1-Oct. 15, sometime in that timeframe. That is putting us at start of construction sometime in the middle to late fall.”
The Council last August approved an accelerated schedule that called for the start of construction in August of this year. Meanwhile, the normal schedule called for the commencement of construction in March 2017.
Heidemann told the Council last Monday night progress is one to two months behind the pace of the accelerated schedule.
“The reason for that are a couple-fold. One is just kind of administration with rural development. Another reason is just some general design delays,” he said. “Probably the biggest reason is just now that we are firmly in the track of going with rural development, there are just hoops we are having to jump through. Not necessarily even hoops, but the biggest one is part of rural development is pre-negotiating all of the equipment.
“What that allows you guys to do is as a community, spend a lot of time making sure that you have the best equipment at the treatment plant for your treatment plant and for your community. It makes sure that you are not getting the cheapest [materials] that the contractor wants to put in, it makes sure that you have some control over what gets selected. We will be working with you through that process but it does take a little more time.”
Heidemann also pointed out the bidding climate is not what it was as recently as six months ago.
“We have been talking to contractors and we continue to talk to contractors. Six months ago, contractors weren’t aware of a whole lot of projects,” he said. “We were thinking, a mid-summer bid is not going to be a big deal, let’s keep on that track. Since that time, we have continued to talk to contractors and in the last two months there have been quite a few bids. Most of those have actually been in Iowa. In the next two months it appears there are still going be quite a few bids. There is more project work that is out there.
“So the bidding environment is not the same as what we thought it was six months ago. It is what it is. I don’t know what the impact is, but the picture we are starting to get is at mid-summer bid, contractors aren’t going to be quite as hungry as we hoped they would be.”
In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the Rural Development Loan and Grant program, has indicated their necessary work would optimistically be completed by the end of July or mid-August, but more realistically by late-August or mid-September.
“I am starting to get the gut feel that we should delay where we are going with this,” Heidemann told the Council. “I also had a conversation with Don [Curtis] about this earlier today, just in general, to get a feel how the treatment plant is sitting right now.
“It is actually running pretty good. He has got all of the RBCs spinning, which is better than where we were sitting this winter. So he wasn’t distraught when I mentioned the thought of maybe delaying for five months. And that is what I am thinking right now, we should consider delaying for five months.”
The Council took no action, but did not protest Heidemann’s rationale.
“I think we are just going to intend to move forward more with that slower schedule in mind. It seems like everybody is kind of comfortable with that. Talking to you guys and talking to Don, in terms of operating the treatment plant,” he said. “It seems smarter overall, talking to the contractors with how the bidding environment is looking. And just in terms of feasibility with Rural Development, it seems like a much better idea to kind of slow down a little bit and look more at a November or February date.
“We are still going to target Sept. 30 for submitting to DNR. The important date with that is that makes sure that you guys are guaranteed to get grant money from DNR if we need it. So we for sure, for sure, for sure will submit to DNR by Sept. 30.”