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Tuesday, June 19th, 2007

Backtracking on water plant project

Celina officials will rebid improvement work

By Timothy Cox
Celina city officials plan to scrap all current proposals and restart the bidding process later this week on the city's planned improvement to the city's water treatment system.
The city had no other choice but to reject equipment and construction bids, Safety-Service Director Jeff Hazel said at Monday's Celina City Council meeting. Bids for equipment and the building topped $7.5 million while original estimates pegged the work at $4.5 million.
Ohio law prohibits public entities from awarding contracts when bids exceed engineering estimates by more than 10 percent. The water improvement bids were about 67 percent higher than estimated costs.
The water issue was discussed only briefly at Monday's council meeting.
Hazel said city officials are revising bid documents in preparation for seeking a new round of price quotes. Hazel remained resolute that the project will be completed by the end of the year.
The city plans to add a granular activated carbon (GAC) system to the city's existing treatment process. The carbon filtration is expected to lower the levels of trihalomethanes (THM) in the city's water to within allowable EPA limits. THMs form in the water as a reaction between organic material in the water drawn from Grand Lake and chlorine added to the water during the treatment process.
A year of pilot testing indicated the GAC process should effectively handle the city's long-running struggles with high THM levels. The new facility is being built on the site of the former Blue Goose power plant, just north of the existing water plant.
The city will adjust its construction estimates and alter the bidding process to try to bridge the huge gap between the original estimates and the bid prices, Hazel said.
"We'll do some value engineering," Hazel said, indicating the city will make more portions of the construction parts of alternate bid packages that can be accepted or rejected. City officials also will combine the equipment and construction into a single bid to try to achieve further cost savings, he said.
City officials originally believed buying the massive GAC contractors, or tanks that will hold the carbon material, separately was necessary to get the project done on time, Hazel said.
"As it turns out, it may have been a detriment," Hazel said.
Any changes or alternate bid packages added to the plans for the GAC facility do not involve the treatment equipment or anything else that will require EPA approval, Hazel said. Such approval would further delay the project.
EPA officials originally set a Nov. 7 deadline for compliance when the agency's findings and orders were handed down several years ago. The agency has revised the deadline to Dec. 31, giving city officials a few extra weeks to get the project completed.
City officials have offered mixed reactions throughout the process on whether the city will beat the deadline.
Hazel has remained steadfast throughout the process that the city will meet its deadline. He would not waver Monday, despite the three to four extra weeks the re-bidding will add to the project.
"I'm still shooting for Dec. 31," Hazel said.
Water Superintendent Mike Sudman admitted late last year that he believes the city won't make the EPA's mark. At the time, Sudman asked for money to be included in this year's budget to pay attorneys or consultants to negotiate with EPA officials over the deadline.
The EPA's original findings and orders called for daily fines up to $25,000 if the city missed the deadline.
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