Board votes to move forward with 1st phase

The Shell Rock River Watershed District Board of Managers on Tuesday voted to move forward with the first phase of the Fountain Lake dredging project after a formal request from Freeborn County commissioners to do so last week.

The action opens a 30-day period of review and response of the project plan by both state agencies and members of the public.

District Administrator Brett Behnke said the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources may submit written comments, as well as the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources. Members of the public can make comments at board meetings or by phone or email.

After the 30 days has passed, there will be a public hearing, followed by the ordering of the bids for the project.

During the meeting Tuesday, the board also approved a new form of bidding for the anticipated dredging project. Traditionally, bids for large-scale projects take a lowest responsible bidder format, which automatically awards a project to the party with the lowest price.

Instead, the board will use best-value bidding, which take variables such as dredging experience, projects completed in Minnesota, experience working with Minnesota agencies and qualifications of key personnel into account when deciding on the best party to contract a project with.

The board approved the motion to utilize best value bidding because of the flexibility it will provide to the Fountain Lake project. This type of valuation can only be applied to projects with many unique variables, such as the lake project, and is allowed to be used only once in a year’s time.

Watershed District attorney Stephanie Haedt said that the best value bidding will “cue in the bidder that is going to do the best job on the project for us.”

Behnke said the district will consider a levy in the fall after seeing what action takes place at the Legislature.

“Right now we are in a holding pattern,” he said.

The district seeks to extend a half-percent sales tax until either $15 million has been collected or 15 years have passed since the renewal. The bill is included in House and Senate tax bills that have passed their respective committees, although the tax bill with the sales tax included has yet to be approved by both bodies as a whole.

“There is a lot going on at the Capitol, and honestly I don’t know how all of this is going to shake out,” Behnke said. “Right now we are at a 50/50 shot of where we are going to end up at the end of the day.”

Behnke credits the slow progress of passing a tax bill to the differences in Minnesota’s Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and the Republican House and Senate proposed tax bills.

“There is always going to be that push and pull,” he said.

A renewal of the sales tax would provide funding for the next phase of the dredging project, which would remove 550,000 to 690,000 cubic yards of sediment from Edgewater Bay, one portion of Fountain Lake, to a confined disposal facility site north of Interstate 90.

© 2015 Shell Rock River Watershed District, 305 S 1st Avenue, Albert Lea, MN 56007