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BE’s big $7.3 M project underway

By Staff | Oct 29, 2017

Drivers on Highway 16 on the west side of Blue Earth have been noticing a lot of construction work going on at the wastewater treatment plant. It is all part of a large $7.33 million update of the city owned plant.

Work has gotten into full swing at the City of Blue Earth wastewater treatment plant upgrade project on the west side of the city.

The project was put into motion back in June of this year when the City Council, on a split 4-3 vote, decided to proceed with the project despite bids coming in nearly a million dollars higher than the engineer’s estimate.

The lowest bid for the work came in at $6.5 million from Rice Lake Construction Group, while the engineer’s estimate had been $5.5 million.

There were some additional “soft” costs including engineering and legal work at $860,000. An additional item of a septic receiving station at a cost of $94,000 was deducted from the construction bid.

All that put the final cost of the project at $7.33 million.

The city will be paying for the project using a federal Public Financing Authority (PFA) loan. Pay back of the loan has yet to be totally decided, but could come from the city levy, or an increase in wastewater charges to residents.

Crews from the Rice Lake Construction Group started work in the middle of September.

According to the construction foreman, work will continue right through the winter.

They hope to get as much outside work done before winter actually hits. The crew says that as long as daytime temperatures hit the 40 degree mark, they will be able to keep on with all the construction. After the temperatures drop and the ground is covered in snow, the crews will put up temporary shelters over the work areas and heat those.

The wastewater treatment plant has had several issues and equipment failures in the past, and the council has been informed in the past that it is only a matter of time before there could be more problems.

“All the work is needed and necessary,” Bolton and Menk engineer Kristopher Swanson told the City Council back in June. “There is no gold plating here, it is all needed.”

Public Works Department supervisor Jamison Holland had also told the council that he hopes the current plant equipment will last during the construction period, but there are no guarantees. It has to last for the estimated two years the project is expected to take, he pointed out.

Construction is also underway for another city project, a new SRE (Snow Removal Equipment) building at the Blue Earth Municipal Airport.

This building is funded by a combination of federal, state and local funds.

Other projects in the planning stages for the city of Blue Earth include the new housing development near Lampert Lumber and also a new Public Works Building.

The Public Works Building is still in the design stages, but is expected to come in at a cost of about $650,000.

The housing development project, which was voted on just recently, will be built near the Lampert Lumber business.

The bids for this project actually came in lower than expected. Despite that, a vote to proceed with the project at the larger size which would have been 38 lots, failed to get passed by a vote of 4-3 back in early October. A subsequent vote by the City Council did pass unanimously a motion to proceed with a smaller version of the project, just 17 lots.

There would be the possibility of completing the rest of the project sometime in the future.

The cost of the project for the 17 lots was $974,591, with the bid coming from Brunz Construction of Madison Lake.

However, with other costs added in, the total project will be over $1 million.

The construction cost bid for the 38 lots was at $1.796 million, but would have topped $2 million with other costs added in, should it have been accepted.

Construction on the project is expected to begin soon.

The City Council has yet to decide just what the price will be per lot. Their plan is to keep it low enough so the lots will be affordable and will be able to be sold in a relatively short amount of time.