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Burlington Seeking Legal Advice on Plant Upgrade

City of Burlington
The city wants to upgrade its wastewater treatment facility. The low bidder for the project wants to withdraw the bid, so the city is seeking legal advice to determine the proper course.

The Burlington City Council is seeking legal advice before it awards a contract for some upcoming work at the city's wastewater treatment facility. The advice is needed after a problem surfaced with the apparent low bid.

The city wants to reduce the odor coming from the north end of the plant. It says that would be accomplished by installing “air scrubbing units, duct work, and associated covers over wells, tanks, and equipment to capture and remove odorous gases emanating from the raw wastewater as it is being processed.”

The city budgeted roughly $500,000 for the project. It received two bids:

  • Carl A. Nelson (Burlington, Iowa) - $454,700
  • Leander Construction (Canton, Illinois) - $574,000

Don Fitting, Wastewater Treatment Facility Superintendent, told the city council this week that two days after the bids were opened, Carl A. Nelson informed the city that it would need to withdraw its bid due to a problem with one of its suppliers. Fitting said that left the city with a few options:

  1. Allow Carl A. Nelson to withdraw the bid, assess a 5% penalty ($22,375), and rebid the project.
  2. Allow Carl A. Nelson to withdraw the bid and accept the 2nd place bid from Leander Construction.
  3. Accept the bid from Carl A. Nelson and allow the company to replace the equipment supplier.

Documents provided by the city show that replacing the equipment supplier would increase the cost of the project by roughly $25,000. The documents also show that the engineering firm the city hired for the project suggested Option 1.
City Manager Jim Ferneau said that with the bids being public information, the city is seeking a legal opinion as to how to proceed.

“We will find out what the city attorney does with that,” said Ferneau to the city council. “My assumption would be that the step forward is to do Option 1.”

Jason Parrott is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.