$3.4 million contract for South Washington Avenue project awarded to St. Joseph firm

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A $3.4 million contract was awarded Tuesday night, June 9, for street and utility improvements on South Washington Avenue.

The Detroit Lakes City Council voted unanimously to award the contract to C&L Excavating of St. Joseph, Minn., at a total cost of $3,429,545 — despite the fact that the bid came in approximately 14% over the original engineer's estimate. The Becker County Board voted in favor of the contract at its regular meeting last week.

Construction of the joint Detroit Lakes/Becker County project is slated to begin in mid-July, and should be completed this year.

The project to rebuild the portion of South Washington stretching from Willow Street south to West Lake Drive will also include the Willow Street intersection, the alley just west of Washington Avenue, and a short section of Forest Street between Washington and Lake Avenue.

The project will include a 44-foot wide roadway, with 12-foot traffic lanes and 10-foot parking lanes. Like the rest of downtown Washington Avenue, there will be 6-foot wide sidewalks, with colored and stamped concrete used for the 3-foot area behind the curb.


City Engineer Jon Pratt informed the council Tuesday that despite the higher-than-expected bids, the overall cost of the project was still likely to come in near the original estimate of $4.3 million, which included contingencies and soft costs.

"We will still be close to the original budget," he said.

The city and county had successfully applied for a $1 million state grant for the project, and the Becker County Board voted June 2 to share it with the city on a roughly 80-20 split — since that is how costs will be split on the overall project.

The county is responsible for about 80% of the overall cost, since Washington Avenue is a county state-aid road. The city is paying the remaining 20%, in large part to add streetscaping and other enhancements that will blend in with improvements made in previous years to the northern two-thirds of the avenue.

Mini-roundabouts are planned for the intersections at Willow Street and North Shore Drive. The Willow Street mini-roundabout is a cost-savings over upgrading the existing traffic lights at that intersection, but commissioners balked at paying an extra $14,000 for the second mini-roundabout at North Shore Drive, which is now a simple T-intersection controlled by a stop sign.

Having previously taken a stand against funding that portion of the project, the county subtracted the $14,000 cost from the city's portion of the state grant, dropping what would have been a $200,000 allocation to $186,000.

Some of that money will likely be directed toward reducing the cost of special assessments on property owners along Willow and Forest streets, which will see infrastructure improvements as part of the project. City Alderman Bruce Imholte noted at Tuesday's council meeting that the city owns some property along the corridor, and will be paying the same special assessments as any other property owner.

“It’s important to put this $186,000 to the city to help reduce special assessments against those properties,” Becker County Engineer Jim Olson said in an interview.


County vote

The commissioners approved the bids for the project June 2, and authorized the city to award the low bid to the St. Joseph company. Sellin Brothers Inc., of Hawley, submitted the only other bid on the project; that bid was between $32,000 and $33,000 higher, Olson said.

The bids were about 14% over the engineer’s estimate, but “two bids that close are a pretty good indication that that’s where the costs are,” Olson added. The bids likely came in higher than expected because the project requires a fair amount of staging to ensure access to multiple businesses, he said.

A resolution to approve the cooperative construction agreement with the city was approved 4-1, with Commissioner Larry Knutson voting no.

The resolution dedicating $186,000 of the state grant money to the city was approved 3-1, with Knutson voting no and Chairman Ben Grimsley abstaining.

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