Decision on relief sewer contractor delayed

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published February 14, 2017

 In this photo from August 2014, vehicles slog through flooding on Marter Road, which was barricaded by St. Clair Shores police. One method the city is pursuing to try and alleviate basement flooding has to be put on hold after City Council members expressed concern over the ability of the recommended contractor to do the work.

In this photo from August 2014, vehicles slog through flooding on Marter Road, which was barricaded by St. Clair Shores police. One method the city is pursuing to try and alleviate basement flooding has to be put on hold after City Council members expressed concern over the ability of the recommended contractor to do the work.

File photo by Kristyne E. Demske

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — One method the city is pursuing to try and alleviate basement flooding has to be put on hold after City Council members expressed concern over the ability of the recommended contractor to do the work.

The 10 Mile Sanitary Relief Sewer project was recently put out to bid, with the city’s engineering firm — Anderson, Eckstein and Westrick — asking for bids for three different methods of construction in order to try to minimize disruption to residents and to save established trees in the area. While AEW originally estimated that the project could cost $1.5 million, the scope of the project has since been expanded to use a 21-inch diameter relief sewer instead of a 12-inch pipe, which will be placed deeper underground to alleviate more problems. The new estimate for work, however, is about double the price.

When AEW put the project out to bid, it asked companies to bid on three different methods of doing the work: 

• A base bid of open cut construction in the north lane, which requires removal of all pavement in the north lane of the road and to auger past trees;

• Alternate 1, which would microtunnel the sewer under the north lane of pavement, bypassing the trees and only requiring shafts every so often to be bored down to allow for work to be done, so most of the pavement could be saved;

• Alternate 2, which is open cut construction in the north lane of pavement, removing all pavement in that lane and including the removal and replacement of all trees.

Lyle Winn, of AEW, said that the prices for the base bid came in highest, with a bid of $3.86 million from V.I.L. Construction for the work. The bid for Alternate 2 from Lawrence M. Clarke came in at $2.72 million. The bid for Alternate 1 from M-K Construction was recommended, because it came in at the lowest price, $2.42 million.

Winn told City Council Feb. 6 that the city has worked with M-K Construction on the Blossom Heath seawall project and was happy with the company’s work. The company bid on the microtunnel project, however, without having ever performed that work previously.

The company has constructed directional drill projects and bore and case components of sewer projects, and “after talking with them, they have two employees that performed microtunneling operations for another company,” he said, which is why AEW was still recommending that the city use that company.

Winn explained that the two employees would be the ones handling the machines to perform the microtunneling operations and would direct the remainder of the crew on the project.

But some council members were not convinced that they want the city to be the first experience that M-K Construction has with that type of work.

“Giving it to a company that’s never done this before — that’s a risk,” said Councilwoman Candice Rusie.

“I’m sort of baffled that we’re looking at hiring a company that’s never done this before, but they’ve got ‘two guys,’” agreed Councilman Pete Rubino. “The company’s never done the work. I don’t get it, especially in today’s environment when you look at issues with sewers.”

Mayor Kip Walby pointed out that the difference between the bids for Alternate 1 and Alternate 2 was $300,000, as well as the removal of all the trees, but Rubino said he wasn’t convinced. There would also be performance bonds to commit the company to the correct completion of the project.

A motion to award the contract to M-K Construction failed to get the needed votes to pass, with Walby and Councilmen Chris Vitale and John Caron voting in favor of the project, and Rubino, Rusie and Councilman Peter Accica voting against it. Councilman Ron Frederick was excused absent. 

Walby said the matter would be investigated further and brought back before City Council Feb. 21.

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