The Mabel City Council voted on Wednesday, May 14, to amend the bid for sewer and water rehabilitation and spot repairs with Jech Excavating of Elgin. The amended agreement expands the project to include an additional $431,000 using grant money from Rural Development.

In addition, another $300,000 in grant money has been set aside for use in contingencies if the project runs into unexpected roadblocks.

"We were right on that threshold to be able to do all the alternative bid items but there was some questions about where we were budget wise...so (now) we subtracted some of the grant money out of the loan money so you actually have more money available so you could actually pick up those alternative (projects) easily," said Shawn Welte of Davy Engineering, who is overseeing the project.

The four alternative bids for sewer repairs will now be part of the project. These include just over $83,000 for Locust Street, approximately $106,200 for Alpine and Railway Streets and nearly $144,000 for the Cedar Street and Newburg Avenue. Another alternative bid project included approximately $98,400 for the Maple Street water main.

"Previously (this was) just a base bid and (now we are) recommending that we award all the alternate bid items that were included in the bid which is going to cover an additional three locations on the sewer and an additional location on the water. We can go from there and we should have concurrence from Rural Development very soon where we could actually issue contracts right away," Welte added.

"This is grant money...(if) we don't use it, we lose it," City Clerk Karen Larson clarified to council members.

Welte also noted that he and his staff will work to put together a construction schedule and will work to have the roads "cleaned up" for '50s and '60s Day in August and Steam Engine Days in September.

The project will involve some minor detours and frustration this summer throughout Mabel.

"Keep in mind there will be inconveniences along the way," said Public Works director Bob Mireau.

"The real areas that will make it inconvenient are Melby (Drive) and Minnesota (Avenue), in particular, because they are dead ends and there being numerous homes out on those locations. But we will try to stage it in sequence with the contractor to make sure that we have capable bypasses around different areas on construction," Welte said.

The council voted unanimously to award all four alternative bids, pending approval from Rural Development, which is providing the funding.

Letter from Rural Development

"Rural Development did not concur with our amendment to the engineering agreement," Larson told the council.

The amendment to the contract was made during the council's April meeting due to the extra cost of rebidding projects associated with the sewer and water project to find lower bids. The extra cost associated with rebidding the projects was around $120,000.

Mireau explained the letter further. "Rural Development looks at it as, you got a contract, you (then) align yourself with that contract, and that shouldn't need to be changed so you need to be careful about that. So they don't agree with that amendment," he said. "They basically need to agree with (it) or essentially those extra costs...we're (the city) going to have to come up with that money...and I do not know where that will come from."

Mireau reminded the council that rebidding the project saved the city a large amount of money - $160,000 on the sewer project alone - but the hard part now is getting Rural Development to concur that the rebidding expenses were necessary.

"How much money does that really cost to rebid?" asked council member Kirsten Wyffels. "Did they ever tell us that while rebidding - costs are going to incur?"

"One thing that threw me was the amount of it...120 grand," Mayor Brain Street said. "We're not talking five years worth of work here in this rebidding process and granted, they may have had to refigure/redraw a few things - but can we see an itemized list of the hours spent and what they were spent on to justify this cost?"

"Don be afraid to ask him (Welte) that," Mireau responded.

"The city is caught in the middle," Larson said. "Davey needs to work with Rural Development (on this)."

Both Mireau and Welte added that they are still working with Rural Development to find agreement on the cost.

"They're not in full agreement with us on the engineering amendment that we had discussed last time. (But) we knew they would want to go back and forth and argue with us on that," Welte told the council earlier in the meeting.