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Cokato council gets a surprise bill for wastewater treatment project
DEC. 17, 2012

By Kristen Miller
News Editor

COKATO, MN – During its meeting last Monday, the Cokato City Council expressed its disappointment with its engineering firm after a recent project exceeded the estimated amount by more than $140,000.

The project in question was biosolids removal from the city’s wastewater treatment pond, which was applied to nearby farmland.

Stantec (formerly Bonestroo), the city’s engineering firm, gave a presentation showing how it determined the original estimate by how much material would be removed, and how they suspect that number changed in the end.

Ron LaFond of Stantec explained to the council that the estimates were on pre-project measurements of the biosolids in pond one at multiple locations.

The results led to a calculation of 293 dry tons to be removed from the ponds. The number was rounded to 300 tons, which was then used for seeking project bids. The original bid was $109,000, based on dry tons.

The contractor began the work Nov. 13 and completed the project Nov. 17. During that time, the contractor removed 6.2 million gallons of biosolids dredged from the bottom of pond one, which amounted to 807 dry tons.

The final payment amount to the contractor was $251,810, making the change order (difference) $142,810.

LaFond explained that because the pond is aerated, the biosolids depths varied throughout the pond, which was hard to measure accurately until it was removed. Some areas were as deep as 8 feet.

He did note that the pond is now taken care of for the next 15 to 20 years.

“I’m awfully disappointed,” said Council Member Butch Amundsen.

Engineer Eric Lembke apologized to the council that the original amount wasn’t more representative to what was removed, but said he truly feels the city is getting its money’s worth.

Lembke noted that it was a fair price, compared to another contractor who was higher yet.

“I wish we had different news to bring to the council,” Lembke said, adding that the amount is truly an unknown until it’s taken out of the pond.

Council Member Jesse Bunker also expressed disappointment. Amundsen added that the project cost doesn’t even include the contractor’s work, which he estimated will be $25,000.

Amundsen questioned the council whether the city could cover the difference. It was noted there is a balance in the sewer fund to pay this amount.

He did say that it was a project that needed to be done and that his concern was more in the shock value of it and not being able to plan ahead for the actual cost. LaFond noted earlier that the biosolids were the reason the pond overflowed in the spring of 2011. He also noted that he has never had a misjudgment like this.

“We don’t have any recourse but to pay it and express our deepest concern,” Amundsen said.

The council approved the change order of $142,810.

“I don’t think we can do anything next year,” Amundsen noted, referring to the nearly $500,000 it spent this year on projects. “We’ve got to recoup some monies,” he added.

2012 payable 2013 levy approved

The council approved the final 2012 payable 2013 levy amount of $1,088,991, which ended up being a decrease of $9,309 from the preliminary levy set in September. The total levy amount is down 2.6 percent from last year’s levy of $1,118,792.

The decrease was due to the refinancing of the 2006 Broadway Avenue Bond in 2012.

Amundsen suggested the council consider planning the budget next year without accounting for local government aid (LGA), since it is an unknown number at the time and would likely be getting cut. Then, if the city does get LGA, it can put it into the revolving construction fund.

Annual sheriff’s report

The Wright County Sheriff’s annual report showed the number of calls reported in 2012 was below average. There were 373 calls reported in Cokato, which was down from 2011, when there were 420 calls.

The number of medical calls were up however, with 65 calls in 2012, compared to 44 calls in 2011. Calls for disturbances of public peace also showed an increase, with 18 calls, compared to seven calls in 2011.

Criminal arrests were also down, with 27 arrests, compared to 46 in 2011.

Odds and ends

In other business, the council:

• approved the utility rates, fees and permit schedule for 2013, which includes the $200 on-sale Sunday liquor license fee. No other changes were made to the schedule, however, it was noted that rate adjustments for water and sewer will be presented in early 2013.

• approved off-sale liquor licenses for Niesen Liquors and Cokato Wine and Spirits, and an on-sale liquor license for Iron Horse Grill & Saloon contingent on receiving complete application and payment.

• approved the resignation of Mike Grack from the planning commission and commended him for his years of service.

• approved an ordinance regarding regulations for Sunday liquor.

• tabled discussion regarding an application submitted to the planning commission by Andy Sundblad for a site plan/special use permit/variance for the possible relocation of a new house modified as a duplex at Arbor Curve in Field Crest subdivision. The council directed staff to seek information from the city’s lawyer to determine what its legal authority is regarding this.

• approved the final payment of $26,581 for the westside lift station.

• approved a pay request of $72,939 for the Prairie Avenue sanitary sewer and water main extension.

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