Bids come in high for Pierz’ SRTS project causing shortfall

City kicks in additional funds and MnDOT takes care of the rest

By Terry LehrkeNews Editor

A lot of construction work is going on in Pierz. In addition to its Robert Street and Park Avenue improvement project, the city plans to add and replace existing sidewalks with money received from a Safe Routes to School (SRTS) grant.

SRTS is a Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) program that uses federal funding. It was designed to make biking and walking to school safer and more appealing to students and their families, encouraging a healthy and active lifestyle.

It was about four years ago that Region 5 first put forth a plan for Pierz and a grant for the first phase of the project was applied for.

The nearly $450,000 grant for construction and engineering was awarded in late 2011. In 2012, the Council decided to delay its Robert Street and Park Avenue improvements due to easement issues, and with that, the SRTS project.

Sealed bids for the SRTS portion of the project were opened May 23. The Council learned Monday that the lowest bid from C & L Excavating Inc. came in at $473,449.15 — nearly 21 percent higher than the engineer’s estimate of $391,408.35.

The other bids were $517,996.98 from Ferber Concrete Construction Inc., and $545,594.50 from Eagle Construction Company Inc.

The bids were opened by the county, since Morrison County is the fiscal agent for the project, which uses federal funds.

City engineer Scott Hedlund with Short Elliott Hendrickson told the Council that with the construction bid of $473,449.15 plus the construction engineering cost of $37,000, the total for the project is now $510,449.15 — $100,745.15 over the remaining SRTS grant funds ($409,704), leaving a shortfall. About $37,000 of the grant funds had already been used for engineering design for the project.

Hedlund said the Council could commit city funds to the project and request additional SRTS funding from MnDOT, or reject the bids, eliminate portions of the project, revise the plans and ask for new bids.

Rejecting the bids and revising the plans would push the project further out, and there was no promise bids would come in any lower.

The Council voted to commit $30,000 to the project and have Hedlund submit a justification letter to MnDOT requesting the additional funds.

Wednesday morning, the Council heard good news — MnDOT agreed to offer additional grant funds for all but $23,000 of the project.

The next step in the process is for the county to award the project to the low bidder at the June 11 Morrison County Board meeting.

Once that is done, Hedlund said contracts have to be processed and signed, and insurance and bonds put into place. “That usually takes a week or two,” he said.

Then the County Board must approve a notice to proceed, probably at its June 25 meeting.

“It will probably be late June or early July before we break ground on construction for the project,” said Hedlund.

While Mayor Toby Egan was happy that MnDOT came through with additional funding, he was disappointed the entire cost hadn’t been funded.

“I think it’s great that MnDOT came through with the funding, but am a little disappointed about the $23,000 cost to the city,” he said. “The grant was supposed to be for 100 percent funding for the project.”

The $23,000 will come out of the city’s capital improvements plan fund.

Egan credited Rep. Ron Kresha’s office for some help in getting a quick response from MnDOT. Egan called Kresha’s office Wednesday morning, just hours before the news about the additional funding came from MnDOT.

“I’d definitely like to thank Ron Kresha for helping us out with it,” he said.

Rep. Kresha, who said his office was certainly responsive to what the city needed, said MnDOT’s call was probably on the way.

“I’m just happy it got worked out,” he said.