Council approves $434K agreement for work with firm for new wastewater treatment plant

Published 12:30 pm Tuesday, November 15, 2022

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The Albert Lea City Council on Monday approved an about $434,000 professional services agreement with engineering firm Bolton & Menk Inc. for some of the initial upgrades at the city’s wastewater treatment plant. 

In addition to having aging infrastructure, the plant is facing new regulations from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for phosphorus removal, with total work estimated to cost almost $73 million, according to numbers given last month from a representative with the firm. 

The agreement the council approved Monday specifically covers final design, review and contract documents for a new grit 

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removal building at the plant, as well as bidding for this part of the project. 

It also includes coordination for a solar array project and geotechnical boring at the plant.

First Ward Councilor Rich Murray in the council workshop ahead of the council meeting questioned the fee and if it was reasonable. 

City Engineer Steven Jahnke said engineering costs typical equate to about 10 to 20% of a project’s total cost. For this portion of the project, the total costs are about $4 million. 

Jahnke noted he is confident in the plan put forth from the firm for the building and noted that before the city moved onto more of the project, plans would be brought back for review from another firm.

Sixth Ward Councilor Al “Minnow” Brooks also questioned the consultant costs during the meeting. 

The action comes as the city faces pressure about the total cost of the project and is lobbying at the state level for $30 million in bonding funds.

City Manager Ian Rigg said typically 10% of the project cost goes to design and another 10% goes to construction reviews. The firms use those figures as a general guideline, but they do charge an hourly rate that depends on which positions are required to complete the work. The cost would not exceed the amount in the agreement, and he said firms are required to submit itemized bills with explanation of how their time was spent. 

Rigg said there is no way the city can have someone on staff who knows how to build or design a wastewater treatment plant when it is only built every 40 years. 

Albert Lea’s project is ranked No. 1 on the Clean Water Revolving Fund list and No. 14 overall on the project priority list. 

In other action, the council: 

• Approved a Broadway Ridge Renewal Grant for 218 S. Broadway for $50,000. The grant covers up to 50% of costs associated with window replacement, new lighting and tuck-pointing repairs. 

• Approved a Broadway Ridge Renewal Grant for 101 S. Broadway for about $37,350 for the Albert Lea Art Center. The grant covers up to 50% of costs associated with a complete roof replacement and a new energy-efficient HVAC system.

• Approved a resolution supporting a grant application for funding through the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s Active Transportation program for 2023 to install new sidewalk along the east side of Blake Avenue between East Main Street and Hendrickson Road. 

The project is included in the city’s capital improvement plan and would improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety between the new shared user trail on East Main Street and the retail area.