MARSHALL - A local business' protest over the award of bids for a tree removal project in Marshall sparked a lot of discussion at Tuesday night's city council meeting. As a result of that discussion, council members voted to void a contract with D&G Excavating but not to penalize the business for withdrawing a bid.
Council member Dan Ritter said he had asked that the council revisit bids it had awarded at its Sept. 25 meeting, for a tree removal project on Marshall's flood protection dike. The Army Corps of Engineers has directed the city to remove all vegetation except grass from the dike, because tree roots in the dike could weaken it and cause it to fail in a flood. City plans for the project are to remove all trees with trunks greater than six inches in diameter and relocate trees six inches or less in diameter.
In September, the city had awarded bids for different parts of the project to both Rogge Excavating and D&G Excavating. Marshall Public Works Director Glenn Olson said the proposal allowed the city to award different sections of the project to different contractors, and that the two companies would be willing to work together.
However, representatives from D&G said on Tuesday that that wasn't the case. As they understood it, contractors had to submit bid proposals on the full project. The company did not want to be responsible for tree relocation, an item Rogge Excavating did not make a proposal for, and which D&G said would involve a lot of cleanup work. At the same time, D&G was concerned about the possibility of being labeled an "irresponsible bidder" and penalized for withdrawing its bid.
Marshall City Attorney Dennis Simpson said the bid could not be undone or withdrawn after it had been awarded. He said the city could reconsider the issue and get new proposals for tree relocation, but that could slow the project down - the work has to be done before the ground freezes.
Ritter said that was another part of the project he didn't think was handled well.
"This whole process could've started earlier," he said.
Marshall EDA Director Cal Brink urged council members to consider D&G's past record working with the city.
"This isn't a thing where someone came in to the city for the first time and bid wrong," Brink said. "This is a one-off."
Council member Charlie Sanow moved that the city void its contract with D&G without penalizing the business and get new proposals for relocating trees. The motion passed unanimously.
Council members also had a lot of discussion on a proposal to install a new sanitary sewer line at the former Runnings store near the intersection of Minnesota Highway 23 and U.S. Highway 59. The Brau Brothers brewing company intends to relocate to the property. However, Olson said the building's current sanitary sewer main is "not in good shape" and is shared with neighboring commercial property. He recommended construction of a new individual sewer main to meet the needs of the brewing company.
Marshall City Administrator Ben Martig recommended the city cover the cost of the public portion of the sewer line.
Ritter questioned why the cost of the line would not be assessed, as with other similar projects.
Sanow added he was concerned the city would set a precedent for funding improvements on private property.
Brink said it was possible the additional cost for the sewer line could hurt the company's ability to get private financing for the move. Adequate sewer capacity was also a key reason Brau Brothers was interested in moving to Marshall, he said.
Martig said the city has had a history of offering incentives for warehouse or manufacturing businesses, although he acknowledged the sewer was out of the norm.
A motion to proceed with the sanitary sewer line passed 4-2, with Ritter and Sanow casting the votes against.