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Bemidji City Council: Council faces another tough budget decision

The Bemidji City Council will be faced with another tough budget decision this week.

Six bids have been received for a new digester building for the Wastewater Treatment Plant. The low bid is $630,000 above the estimate for the project.

The low bid came from Eagle Construction out of Little Falls, Minn., at $4,211,000. Six local contractors were listed in their bid proposal as potential subcontractors.

In a memo to the council, Public Works Director/City Engineer Craig Gray said the main reasons for the higher bids were structural, electrical, plumbing and HVAC (heating, ventilating and air-conditioning) were "significantly higher due uncertainly in material costs."

The council will consider the project during its regular meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall. The meeting is on Tuesday this week due to the Presidents Day holiday.

Gray wrote to the council that rebidding the project would not likely reduce the cost as all of its components are needed to keep the plant operating and to accommodate future growth.

The project would result in the ability to serve a population of up to 23,400, which Bemidji is expected to reach sometime around 2045-2050. It also would make it possible to service sewage from around Lake Bemidji, which is a goal of the City Council.

Already, the digester building project had been projected to cost more than the city originally anticipated.

The city had budgeted $2.93 million in the Capital Improvement Plan for the project. But the city's consultant, Bolton & Menk, designed the project with a cost estimate of $3.581 million.

If the project is approved at $4.2 million, the council will need to identify the source from which to fund the shortfall. One possible option is selling revenue bonds and raising sewer rates to pay them off.