Questioning city council's water tower contract

Last August, the city council unanimously approved a contract worth $1.3 million to a consultant, Short Elliott Hendrickson (SEH), to help repair and maintain the Commonwealth Water Tower beginning this spring. What makes this contract unique is that unlike almost all other construction and maintenance contracts the city enters into, this one was awarded without opening the bid process up to local, experienced Minnesota contractors and the craft professionals they employ.

The city used an exemption in the state's municipal contracting law to skirt traditional competitive bid processes where local contractors are able to bid on the city's construction projects. If that isn't bad enough, the consultant exclusively uses a Wisconsin contractor for its water tower maintenance work.

In the warranty provided to the city in the contract, interior or exterior rust will only be repaired if it rises to a certain level. Had the city bid competitively for this critical project, SEH might have guaranteed its work to be free from all rust and offered to repair it at no cost, which is common in competitively-bid water tower maintenance contracts.

It is a shame that Woodbury residents, who are already facing increased water and utility rates this year, are now being asked to foot the bill for a Wisconsin contractor to repair and maintain one of our water towers. The city council should throw out this $1.3 million no-bid contract with SEH like the city of Plymouth recently did to a similar one with SEH, allow Minnesota contractors to bid on the project, and award the contract to the one who submits the best proposal that fits our city's needs for cost, timeliness and warranties, along with a proven, qualified track record of performing this type of work.

Adam Hanson