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Mount Vernon taking 'gamble' on rebid of sewer project

MOUNT VERNON -- City officials are crossing their fingers that a second round of bids for reconstruction of the Mount Vernon sanitary sewer system will come in at or below cost.

MOUNT VERNON -- City officials are crossing their fingers that a second round of bids for reconstruction of the Mount Vernon sanitary sewer system will come in at or below cost.

The project will be rebid Thursday because the original bid came in higher than the city could afford, said Mayor Jason Christensen, who broke a 3-3 tie at the last council meeting in favor of rebidding the project.

"It's not that we didn't have the money, but if there were any unforeseen circumstances later on," the city wouldn't be able to pay for those, he said. "It was a tough deal for us, but from what I hear a lot of other small towns are going to be going through the same thing."

Christensen called the rebidding process "a gamble."

"I'll tell you right now if the bids come in to high, it will come down to a board decision," he said.

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The city was forced to upgrade the system after a 2008 South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources inspection found the sanitary sewer pipes to be leaking excessively.

Christensen said the bids came in over budget for the sanitary sewer system due to the short time span allotted to construct the project, and few companies submitted bids.This time, the company that is awarded the project will have two summers to finish it, he said.

"Hopefully we get a lot more people to bid it," Christensen said. "It's going to be a good thing for the city. We had to get it done because the state was going to start imposing fines on us."

The total cost for the project will be approximately $3.1 million, said Brenda McPeek, city finance director. The city received a Clean Water State Revolving Fund loan for $2.3 million from the state Board of Water and Natural Resources. Of that amount, $1.05 million is principal forgiveness and $1.25 million is bonds. The loan term is 30 years at 3.25 percent.

The city also received a $750,000 consolidated grant through the Board of Water and Natural Resources.

The city applied for a grant from the James River Water Development District board. Members decided Tuesday to table the $50,000 request pending the receipt of more information from the city, said board member Carol Millan, who represents rural Davison and Hanson counties. There was no Mount Vernon representative present at the meeting, she said.

"Normally the development district doesn't pay for infrastructure construction," Millan said, because it would not be able to handle the flood of requests that would result if it did so.

The JRWDD grant criteria does allow for related project costs, such as engineering and planning, she said, and the JRWDD board will reconsider the city's request for funds at its July meeting.

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McPeek said she was unaware that JRWDD funds could not be used for direct construction costs, but she said the city has plenty of other costs that may meet JRWDD criteria. Any money would be a help, Christensen said.

"We need extra money from somewhere, otherwise we won't be able to do the project," he said.

The lagoon portion will total $403,000 and should be complete by this fall. The city awarded the bid to the David Vanderpol Construction Company in Harrison. To help fund the project, the city has tacked on a $30 surcharge to each sewer bill to provide for loan payments, McPeek said.

The city purchased 20 additional acres from Delores Kroupa to construct a new two-cell lagoon just in front of the current one northeast of town.

The two-cell system will discharge into the current lagoon, which will be made shallower and serve as a final treatment and clarification area for wastewater, said Jeff McCormick, project engineer, at SPN & Associatesin Mitchell. The current lagoon will allow wetland plant life to grow, benefitting area wildlife, he added.

The city will receive bids by 4 p.m. Thursday and award the bid at 7 p.m. during its council meeting at Mount Vernon's community center that night.

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