Bridge replacement to be delayedWORTHINGTON — Nobles County commissioners rejected the lone bid received for replacing bridges on Nobles County State Aid Highways 1 and 14 near Brewster on Tuesday, further delaying a project that has forced farmers with over-sized loads onto a multi-mile detour to get grain to market.
By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Nobles County commissioners rejected the lone bid received for replacing bridges on Nobles County State Aid Highways 1 and 14 near Brewster on Tuesday, further delaying a project that has forced farmers with over-sized loads onto a multi-mile detour to get grain to market.
The primary reason for the rejection was that the bid, received from Duininck Bros. Inc. of Prinsburg, was 33 percent more than the engineer’s estimate for the project.
“We’re getting bonding money (for the project) and the state is not comfortable with one bidder and that it was 33 percent over,” said Nobles County Public Works Director Stephen Schnieder. “Because of that, if we’d award the bid, the state will limit our bonding money.”
Duininck Bros. submitted a bid of $1,178,668 for the two bridge projects, which includes removal of the existing bridge structures and replacement with pre-cast concrete culverts.
Schnieder said he did not receive confirmation from the state to proceed with the project, and with a potential government shutdown looming, there was concern the bonding money would not arrive prior to the proposed July 18 start date.
While disappointed with the lack of bidders for the projects, Schnieder said it was most likely a case of contractors being too busy. Heavy rains are creating delays in the area, forcing contractors to get behind schedule in other projects and making it difficult to squeeze anything more into this construction season.
“A lot of these state and federally funded projects could stop with a government shutdown,” Schnieder said. “If they lose two to three weeks of construction time, that just means their schedule gets more compressed also.”
The county had hoped to advance the bridge replacements so they would be completed by mid-August. Now, it will begin the process of re-advertising for bids, with the hope now that the project could be completed by late September or mid-October.
“Crews are busy — I think that’s why we only had one bidder,” Schnieder said. “I think if we wait a bit, we may get more bidders and better prices.”
“I know my constituents aren’t going to be happy,” said Commissioner Marv Zylstra about the delay. “We’ve really pushed to get this bridge done. I think we are better to just sort of endure the pain and readvertise. Hopefully we’ll get two, three, five bidders. As much as I hate to do it and would love to see this thing done, I just don’t think we can bear a 33 percent increase.”
Possible shutdown to impact public transportation
Neal Steffl, director of the Southwest Minnesota Opportunity Council, reported at Tuesday’s Nobles County Board meeting that if the state moves forward with a government shutdown on July 1, taxi rates in the county will nearly double and Heartland Express will cease operations.
The taxi service ordinarily receives a subsidy from the state, but there is no guarantee that subsidy will be paid in the event of a government shutdown.
“Based on our last communication from MnDOT (Minnesota Department of Transportation), even though we have a contract and 80 percent of the money is federal, it has to pass through the state,” Steffl said.
As a result, SMOC plans to suspend operation of Nobles County Heartland Express on July 1, if the government shutdown occurs. The taxi service will continue to operate, but will go to full-fare — $5 for a one-way ticket, $10 for round-trip.
“I don’t know how many people in Nobles County depend on Heartland Express or the taxi for critical medical needs, but this is really going to impact them,” said Steffl.
The financing issue has moved into the court system with the hope that federal funds could continue to pass through the state and to the counties even with a shut-down.
“We’re keeping tabs on it,” Steffl said. “The needle can move quite a bit between now and July 1.”
Steffl said SMOC will continue to operate and serve Nobles County through a government shutdown.