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MARCO ISLAND — Cape Coral’s decision to cancel their sewer project, followed by Marco City Council’s decision to rebid their sewer projects, yielded millions of dollars in savings for the city and hundreds to thousands in savings for each resident in the Island sewer project districts.
City Council approved spending $12.1 million to continue their central sewer project by awarding two contracts to Mitchell and Stark, the low bidder. Council decided in December to rebid the projects when contractor and then-low bidder D.N. Higgins protested the bid process. D.N. Higgins, now the second lowest bidder, is also protesting this latest round of bidding.
City Manager Steve Thompson said the process of protesting will not have to stop or delay the construction which is planned for this year.
Calculations on the savings to residents in the two districts, Kendall and Mackle Park, can differ depending on which bid stages are compared. In Summer 2008 Council approved to sole source both projects to Mitchell and Stark instead of going out to bid. At that time, the estimate was about $17 million for both projects from Mitchell and Stark, said Councilman Frank Recker.
Since sole sourcing the project was deemed illegal by the state, the city put the projects out to bid.
Public Works Director Rony Joel said there are about 650 homes in each of the two districts. These are the two largest districts in the project so far, he added.
The average savings from this summer to Tuesday’s decision is about $3,800 per property owner and $5 million total.
“If we bid it again can we cut another $2.5 million?” asked Councilman Ted Forcht.
While residents were pleased the estimates went down, many still expressed concern that economic conditions should halt the sewer construction process.
“From what I’m hearing from national experts on this, you have individuals out there recommending not loaning money to cities due to the risk of bankruptcy. Kansas is headed toward bankruptcy... I just don’t think we should be throwing money this way and that way through this crisis we’re going through,” Kiester said.
Kiester and Forcht voted against awarding the contracts to Mitchell and Stark because both did not want the sewer project to continue.
Recker said he believed D.N. Higgins should be considered for one of the two districts because they were the reason for the savings in the most recent bid round.
Chairman Bill Trotter looked at it differently.
“That would be penalizing $700 per house for those in D.N. Higgins’ Kendall District compared to if Mitchell and Stark did it,” Trotter said.
Councilman Jerry Gibson said he could support Recker, but had some reserves.
“I’m hesitant as far as D.N. Higgins goes because I don’t like feeling threatened,” Gibson said.
Trotter and City Manager Steve Thompson reminded everyone in the council room that the reason for the bid was to find the lowest price from a quality firm, which in this case was Mitchell and Stark.
Residents began filing into the Council chambers as the debate continued. Residents made it clear they wanted to save money.
Vickie Kelber, a former Councilwoman and current resident of the Kendall District said she was watching the Council meeting on TV and rushed in to urge Council save everyone money.
“Remember it was your choice to go out to get bids,” Kelber said addressing Council.
D.N. Higgins protested, but was not recommending rebidding, she said.
“I live on Kendall Drive and I’m ready to have the sewer done now rather than later,” said Donna Kahn, one of several residents who said she rushed in after hearing the debate on TV.
There were a lot of factors that led to a $5 million decrease in cost over the last six to nine months.
Brian Penner, CEO of Mitchell & Stark, compared the first bid to “fine dining” and the second to “McDonald’s.”
The idea of low quality didn’t sit well with Council, so details were requested.
Penner said the end product would be the same, but service would be lower.
He added that Mitchell and Stark was the low bidder in Cape Coral and lost the $18 million project when Cape Coral chose to cancel their sewer project.
“You got the benefit of that. I wanted to keep my workers employed,” Penner said.
Joel said fuel costs changed dramatically since the summer when oil was $150 per barrel and gas was more than $4 per gallon.
Council voted 5-2 to approve both projects to Mitchell and Stark totaling about $12.1 million with Kiester and Forcht dissenting.
Recker requested that Council receive an update on any change orders during the sewer construction each month.