New England City Council votes to move forward with water project

Motion, passed. The city of New England has decided to go forward with the water project.

Posted August 8, 2014

By COLE BENZ | Herald Editor | cbenz@countrymedia.net

Motion, passed. The city of New England has decided to go forward with the water project.

About halfway through the Aug. City Council meeting, the council passed two motions proposed. The first was to continue with the grant application process, and the second was to go ahead with the city water project with Moore Engineering as the facilitators of the project. But it wasn’t without caveats.

Convening at what will be the former Rural Fire Department building for the first time, the council was presented with another company’s plea for consideration.

City Engineer and President of Heartland Engineering Steve Dorval approached the council with concerns of the overhead costs larger firms can incur, along with other issues he feels would not be a concern if Heartland were to overtake the project.

This whole process began for the city in Nov. 2013, and at that point Dorval and his company were not equipped to take on such a large project.

By partnering with Russ Sornsen, an independent engineer who has experience in water projects, he believes he is now able to undertake a project of this magnitude.

The council, however, was concerned on the timing in which they were approached. Though they were on the agenda and the council was not ambushed with this, Mayor Marty Opdahl was surprised at the timing of it.

“I wasn’t surprised last (Aug. 4) night because I knew it was coming because I got the agenda, I was surprised because it was public knowledge, we’ve been very open about the process and everything,” Opdahl said. “I was surprised someone came so late in the ball game.”

A big concern raised by Dorval and his partner was the grant process. According to them, a provision of the grant process is the requirement to have a selection process among engineers and contractors. Moore Engineering Senior Project Manager Kent Ritterman wasn’t concerned with the process, and even offered to
show proof that their process was being followed correctly.

“We let Rural Development know what was all happening, and in their opinion they were ok,” Ritterman said. “We want to make sure that we’re not going to jeopardize anything with the city.”

Ritterman said that they have followed the same process with other cities, but because the concern was raised, they’ll do some more checking with Rural Development.

Though the city may have to go through a formal selection process, or some kind of soliciting, Ritterman said it will not affect the funding portion of the project.

“We’ve been to this very point, and then gone through the selection process, we’ve done that before too,” Ritterman said. “It will not jeopardize the project funding.”

The impression that was given by the council, according to Jung, is that they had put a lot of time, energy and money into the efforts with Moore Engineering to be switching companies at this point. The Mayor also agreed.

“It would be basically starting over,” Opdahl said.

Jung even had reached out to other cities who’ve worked with the firm in the past.

“They (Moore Engineering) brought us proof and showed us all the cities that they have worked with, and the grant dollars they’ve gotten for other cities,” Jung said. “They definitely have a proven track record, Moore Engineering, that they’re very capable of doing this project, and I actually, myself, contacted the cities that they did work with and they all had great things to say about Moore Engineering.”

Buried under the uncertainty of the grant process was the fact that the city qualifies for just under 45% of grant funding, a final submission of the application still has to take place. The deadline is Aug. 8, and the city and Moore Engineering could find out if they’re approved as early as the following week.

Ritterman said that if the application is approved, they’ll receive a ‘letter of conditions’ which outlines the rest of the process.

Though the council passed the motion to go forward on the water project with Moore Engineering, the city of New England will not sign a contract with the firm until they can provide certainty that the process has been followed correctly. Opdahl was happy with the decision.

“I was very happy with the decision that was made to go forward with Moore Engineering, I think we came up with the best decision that we had last  (Aug. 4) night,” Opdahl said. “We are excited to be in the grant process right now, it’s looking very favorable that the first phase of our project is going to come in close to 45% grant money, and we’re very excited about what that can offer towards the community of New England, and we’re excited that we’re going to be able to start, starting next year, providing the water services that all the residents of New England deserve.”

The city still needs to wait for final approval of the grand and loan money.

After that Moore Engineering will bid out the construction in late winter or early spring.

If things go according to plan the construction can begin late in the spring or the early summer of 2015.

Other means of project funding, were not discussed by the council at the meeting.

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