MSD OKs construction contract

By Robert Chalupny

An $80,598,790 contract with Goodwin Brothers Construction for the construction of the Lower Meramec Wastewater Treatment Plant recently was awarded by the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District Board of Trustees.

Board members voted unanimously Oct. 9 to approve the first appropriation — $43.6 million — of three that will be made during the next two years for the construction of the Oakville plant.

Goodwin Brothers Construction was the lowest of five bidders for the project.

Other bidders included: Alberici Constructors Inc., $84,199,710; BSI Constructors Inc., $91,300,000; KCI Construction Co., $86,433,840; and Paric, $91,275,687.

After bids for the project came in — $25 million higher than expected — the board was urged by longtime MSD critic Tom Sullivan and representatives from Alberici Constructors — the second lowest bidder — to rebid and rework the project for a possible savings of $10 million to $15 million.

Sullivan told the Call last week that he still believes the district should have rebid the project.

“I think it’s completely irresponsible of them going ahead without rebidding it,” Sullivan said. “I think they could save at least $10 million.”

To save money, board members discussed taking out the “campus-like atmosphere” and making it a utilitarian plant.

During a Program Management Commit-tee meeting in August, Trustee Dee Joyce-Hayes said the “campus-like atmosphere” should be considered for removal from the scope of the project.

“For example, this wonderful suburban-like campus that we’re building, because people don’t want to have to look at a sewer treatment plant,” Joyce-Hayes said. “I mean that’s lovely, and I guess if I lived next door I would feel that way, you know, but we are building this for a region, not for the people who happened to build their houses next to a sewage treatment facility.”

Hayes made a point at the Sept. 11 board meeting that eliminating the “campus-like atmosphere” would save the district only $1 million. She voted in favor of the contract.

The district’s assistant director of engineering, Brian Hoelscher, told the board last month when it considered the contract under more scrutiny, that members got a good price for the project and it should not be scaled down in any way.

“We know right now that we feel we’ve got a competitive bid price for the product that we put out.” Hoelscher said. “We know that the service and the features that we have in the plant right now and are needed 15 years from now.”

Another factor that played a role in the district’s decision to proceed is the deadline it is facing set by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the Environmental Protection Agency.

To comply with DNR and EPA requirements, the district must have the plant running by December 2006 or face a $100 per-day fine for each day the district is not in compliance. That could escalate to a max-imum fine of $10,000 per day.

Board of Trustees Chairman Robert J. Baer told the Call he feels “very strongly” that moving forward with the project is the right thing to do.

“I think, first of all, that those who are criticizing ought to have specifics,” Baer said. “I think that there is a lot of general comments being made about what we could save and we believe, the trustees, after extensive review, talking to our own in-house staff, talking to outside consultants, very competent reputable firms, talking to the county engineer who has also taken a look at the project at our request and all of them believe that the project is as we’ve designed it, we’ve ‘spec’d’ it an $80 million project …

“… We’re more than willing to look at anybody’s legitimate comments if they think they can do it a different way. We would have looked at it. All we had is one contractor, who didn’t get the bid complaining, and one individual who says that he commenting because of the comments of this contractor.

“So to me it seems to me some people are chasing there tail here. We got to get on with this project. It’s important to that part of the region. The board has seen fit to go forward and that’s what were doing,” he said.