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BE Council says no to concrete

By Staff | Nov 30, 2009

Dan Brod

Two more decisions dealing with the proposed $6.2 million Blue Earth runway extension project brought controversial arguments at the last City Council meeting on Nov. 16.

First, council member Dan Brod questioned a proposal to have the city’s engineering firm, Bolton and Menk, prepare changes to the land/air space zoning ordinance.

The proposal had a projected cost of not more than $33,000.

Brod wondered if the cost would be necessary if the runway was not enlarged, and was told it would not be – it was needed because of the runway extension.

He also questioned one piece of language in the proposal, which said Bolton and Menk retains ownership of all of the documents it prepares for the city.

Glenn Gaylord

“It just seems odd to me that we hire someone to do engineering and they own the plans, not us,” Brod says.

Bill Sayre of Bolton and Menk says it is standard language, dealing with ownership rights. In other words, the city cannot sell the plans to another entity.

The motion to have Bolton and Menk prepare the changes passed 4-3, with Brod and Councilmen John Huisman and Les Wiborg voting no.

The next item raising debate was a proposal to have the engineers add specifications for a concrete runway in addition to the bituminous specs for bids for the project.

This proposal from Bolton and Menk would cost $45,000 for the changes to the specs. The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) would pay 95 percent of that cost, with the city’s share being $2,250.

This time it was Councilman Glenn Gaylord who raised the question.

“Why would we spend $45,000 for these changes when we have already approved the Airport Commission’s recommendation to go with bituminous pavement for the runway?” he asked. “This is a complete waste of money for our city.”

Bailey pointed out that the city’s share would only be $2,250, not the full $45,000.

Sayre said the request to add concrete to the bid specs came from the FAA itself. The discussion was temporarily tabled until Sayre received a copy of the FAA e-mail letter from his office.

Bailey noted the letter was more of a request, and not a demand.

“Why would we ask for concrete bids when we have no intention of using concrete,” Gaylord again asked. “We looked at it and decided bituminous would be better, and even the pilots prefer it. Snow melts faster off it, and it is easier to see.”

Gaylord made the motion to not follow the FAA request, and stick with bid specs for bituminous only.

The motion passed 5-2, with Brod and Wiborg voting no.

The council was not done with questions about Bolton and Menk proposals.

Next, they asked about a proposal to hire the firm as the city’s engineers for 2010. Although the costs for engineering services were to remain the same as the current year, at least one councilman wondered if it could be lower.

“Let’s face it, in this economy everyone should be willing to sharpen their pencils,” Councilman Huisman said. “I wonder if we might not want to put the engineering out on bids.”

He cited the case at St. Luke’s Lutheran Care Center, which put their accounting and audit out for bids. The current firm got the bid, but at a much lower cost than it had originally proposed.

In the end, however, the council voted to approve the contract with Bolton and Menk for 2010.

“They know all of our projects and have served us well,” Administrator Bailey said. “I have checked with other communities and their (Bolton and Menk) rates are comparable.”

Councilman Dick Maher agreed.

“They know all about our community, and where everything is,” Maher said. “Besides, they also do a lot for us at no charge.”