Council OKs $4.1 million water treatment plant

Stephen Kalb-Koenigsfeld, Pioneer editor
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In a grudgingly manner, the Big Timber City Council accepted Sletten Construction’s bid for $4,114,208 to build the new water treatment plant by the end of the year. There were a total of five bidders for the project.

The $4.1 million bid includes two additive alternates, which include fencing for $19,805 and access road improvements for $43,200. Councilmen Dan Thomasson and Ken Rockeman were the first two to vote “aye” on the measure, while councilmen Justin Ferguson and Bill Fossum reluctantly voted “aye” after further consideration. 

The total cost of the project will come out to be $5,657,027, which includes just more than $1.5 million in engineering fees, estimates and other costs by Great West Engineering. 

The engineer’s estimate — done by Great West — was $3,952,093 without the additive alternatives ($4,021,383 with the alternatives). Ferguson raised issue with why the ultimate bid was nearly $100,000 more than the engineer’s estimate.

“I am disappointed in the engineer’s estimate, that we based all our finances off,” Ferguson said. “And now we dig into our coffers to pay this extra amount of money. To me, it seems wrong that the people of Big Timber have to bear the brunt of this increase. And I’d like to ask if [Great West] is willing to absorb some of that?”

Chad Hanson, an engineer for Great West and who has worked with the city council on getting bids through and coming up with the estimate, said it’s unlikely Great West would absorb any increases from the estimate, but he would be talking with his boss about Ferguson’s question. 

“We do the best we can on our engineering fees,” Hanson said. “We do the best we can to give good, conservative estimates. Unfortunately, we have no control over the market, over the construction costs. If you recall, I came in to give you guys as much heads up as we could because we saw construction costs climbing dramatically.”

In early March, President Donald Trump announced he’d be passing new tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, causing the costs of materials for Big Timber’s water plant project to jump on the day of the bid.

“The day before and the morning of the bid, the steel and aluminum tariffs got announced,” Hanson said. “So, there’s major concern over the availability of steel and rebar and how that steel tariff was going to affect everything.

“The steel building people were actually calling us in a panic, asking us to push the bid off.”

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