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City rejects bids

By Staff | Dec 27, 2009

Kathy Bailey

After months of split votes on anything to do with the Blue Earth Airport runway project, a decision by the City Council on Monday was unanimous.

Unfortunately, that vote was to reject all three of the bids received for the two-year project which includes paving the runway, extending it to 4,600 feet, and building a taxiway.

The reason for rejecting the bids? All three were above the engineer’s estimate. Way above.

The low bid was from Ulland Brothers of Albert Lea, at $6.638 million – over $1.3 million above the engineer’s estimate of $5.347 million.

The other two bids were just under $7 million.

“We have never had bids come in that much over the estimate,” says Bill Sayre, of Bolton and Menk engineering firm. He also expressed surprise that only three bids were received, since over 50 construction firms had asked for bid forms.

Sayre cited several reasons why the bids came in so much above the estimate.

One had to do with the unknown cost of the asphalt over the next two years. He says it is tied to the cost of oil. Transportation was another unknown concern.

“One of the bidders had $600,000 included for hauling equipment here and setting it up,” Sayre says.

The other high cost came with the call for high quality aggregate, which Sayre says might have to be hauled in from a great distance.

“It is a Federal Aviation Authority requirement for runways,” Sayre told the council. “If we could spec it using MnDOT requirements, the cost would come way down.”

After rejecting the bids, the council asked Sayre what is next, and can they call for new bids.

Sayre says he would first like to meet with the FAA to see if the specs can be changed.

“The other problem is that it was bid as one project over two years,” he says. “We also need to see if we can split it into two projects, one each year.”

Councilman Glenn Gaylord said he felt the council should also consider adding concrete for the runway in the new bid specs.

“I realize it adds $45,000 to the cost of the bids, but this might be the time to do it.”

If the city would have accepted the low bid, the overall cost of the airport project would rise to $7.6 million, with engineering and land costs added in.

The city’s share would have become $386,421. The estimate for the city’s amount of the project has been stated to be $325,000.

The council did authorize a few other items dealing with the airport. One was to agree to reconvene the Airport Zoning Commission.

The revamped commission will include two members from the city, county, and each of the four townships within the air management area of the airport.

“These commission members cannot be elected officials,” City Administrator Kathy Bailey told the council.