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Village needs quotes for lift station project

Trustees, attorney raise concerns because lift station wasn't going to bid

August 11, 2010 | 08:52 AM
Fontana — During the August Village Board meeting, three trustees and the village attorney questioned why there weren't plans to bid out a maintenance project for the North Shore lift station.

On a 4-3 vote, the board approved hiring L.W. Allen to purchase and install two pumps for the lift station at a cost not to exceed $46,000, which is part of a $100,000 project. At the meeting, Trustee Thomas McGreevy said the project didn't go out for bid because of a desire to use L.W. Allen, a company the village trusts for important projects.

The approval was contingent on Village Attorney Dale Thorpe making sure the board was acting within the scope of Wisconsin bidding laws.

Thorpe said the project needs to go out for bid.

"I think it is the safer course of action to err on the side of the public bidding process," Thorpe said.

Trustee Peg Pollitt said the village should bid out these types of projects. Pollitt, along with Trustees Micki O'Connell and Cynthia Wilson, voted against moving forward the project without bids.

"I think it is good practice to go out for quotes and we should do that for all our projects," Pollitt said Aug. 5.

Public Works Director Craig Workman said he didn't think the work fell under the bidding laws because it is a maintenance project. He also said bidding out the project will increase the bottom line.

Wisconsin law requires municipalities to receive bids for any project that is greater than $25,000.

What is the project?

The North Shore lift station plays a critical role in bringing wastewater from residences on North Lakeshore Drive and in the Upper and Lower Gardens subdivisions to the treatment plant in the town of Sharon.

If the lift station fails, sewage will backup into basements and into Geneva Lake. There are 12 lift stations in the village.

Waste in Fontana isn't treated until it reaches the sewer treatment facility. So, a backup would send raw sewage into basements and Geneva Lake.

Workman said the maintenance will help avoid a failure with the lift station.

"We've replaced components and our concern is with a catastrophic failure where we have an overflow," he said.

In an emergency situation, where the lift station fails, Thorpe said repairs can be made without the public bidding process.

The entire project is expected to cost $100,000. However, Workman said that total will likely increase by 10 percent when the project goes out for bid.

Although a bid may yield a price lower than $100,000, Workman doesn't expect the savings to make up for the cost of bidding the project.

This is because bidding would require an engineer to complete a survey. There is also a cost to advertise bids.

The project consists of replacing two pumps, a valve and providing electrical upgrades.

Workman said replacing the pumps is a sensitive job, which requires the lift station to be bypassed. If the bypass fails, sewage can backup.

"If bypassing the pumping operation fails we are in a situation," he said. He said a limited number of companies are qualified to complete the work for this type of project.

No piecemealing the project

Piecemealing the project together to avoid bidding also isn't allowed.

According to the League of Wisconsin Municipalities website, communities can't avoid the bidding process by splitting projects into several smaller ones.

"The courts have held that municipalities cannot evade the statutory bid requirements by dividing a project up into small segments that fall under the statutory threshold of $25,000," according to the group's website.

Last month, the Village Board approved spending $19,100 to replace a valve. Although the board approved replacing the valve, it hasn't happened.

Thorpe said no work for the project has been completed and all of it will need to go through the bidding process, including the valve that was approved last month.

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