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Putting an end to the jail

From the Editor's Notebook

July 6, 2009
by Chuck Hunt, Register Editor
For over a year we have reported on the problems with getting a water conditioning system installed into the new Faribault County Law Enforcement Center.

Now we can report that the LEC has a softener system installed and fully operational.

Our readers are sure to remember how the county commissioners first pulled the softener system out of the full contract bidding process, in order to allow local contractors an opportunity to bid on it.

It was a good idea, but it didn’t work out that way at first.

Due to a complicated set of specifications, the county wound up re-bidding the softener system two more times after the original bid contract was not signed.

Finally, in the third round, Culligan Water Conditioning of Fairmont was the successful low bidder at $22,695.

They installed the system two weeks ago, and Rich Johnson of Culligan says it meets all the specs, including the somewhat controversial ‘pressure drop’ requirement.

Johnson says he installed a Culligan 3-tank commercial grade system. It will meet the demand, as well as being more than adequate to cover the pressure drop requirement.

The county board was also concerned about a problem with the intake plumbing. Johnson says there were 2-inch drops coming out of the 4-inch pipes, whereas 3-inch drops are required for the system specs.

He says he simply changed the 2-inch drops to 3-inch drops.

There was also a concern about the space available in the utility room for the commercial 3-tank system. Johnson says it was a tight squeeze but they got it all to fit just fine.

He adds that a commercial softener expert from Culligan of Sioux Falls was here for three days to help with the installation.

Johnson says he entered a bid all three times the county asked for one. It is true, he says, that the bids were different each time, but that had to do with the changes made to the specs each time, he explains.

Although he was the apparent low bidder in the second round, he didn’t sign the contract because his bid was for a system that just met the pressure drop requirement, while the specs called for being below the requirement.

This new equipment totally exceeds all the requirements, he says.

“If we were going to do it, we wanted to have it right,” he said. “With this new system, there is no question about it being able to do the job.”

Johnson is a third generation owner of Culligan of Fairmont. It has been in business for 60 years, and was operated by his grandfather and father before him.

After college at Augustana in Sioux Falls, he came back to Fairmont in 1992 to take over the business.

“I pretty much grew up in the water softener business,” he says with a chuckle. “This bidding on the jail system was just part of doing business.”

County board members expressed relief that the whole project is finally over with. During the past several months, the commissioners have said they were upset that the matter was dragged out so long and became so controversial.

We agreed. It was amazing to see how something such as a water softener could develop into a long, drawn out controversy.

We are sure the commissioners and citizens of Faribault County are glad to see it installed and the topic put to rest.

Time to move on to something new.

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