VALPARAISO | The city's Utilities Board approved a contract with Chester Inc. last week to design a 14,000-square-foot addition to one of the buildings on the new public works campus being planned for land at the sewage treatment plant.
The $117,000 contract includes the renovation of an existing building at the treatment plant to be used as a maintenance facility. The preliminary estimate for the utilities portion of the entire project is $1.2 million, including the design contract and the maintenance facility.
The contract was approved 4 to 0 with board member Mike Sur abstaining. During the discussion of the contract, Sur said the cost "seems high to me for a pole barn." Utility Director Steve Poulos said it was about 10 percent of the estimated construction cost, which is on the low side.
Sur said he thought the contract should have been bid. Board lawyer Mike Langer said the board is not required to seek bids for services contracts such as this. Poulos said it made sense to go with Chester because they are local, and they are doing the design for the public works portion of the project.
Distribution Manager Chuck McIntire said the administration building planned for the site will be two stories with the second story used mostly for storage of records while being available for growth of the department as the city grows in the future.
The public works area will have a sign shop next to a vehicle maintenance building, which will serve both the public works and the utilities department's vehicles. A vehicle storage garage and a salt storage building also are planned.
A fueling depot near the entrance to the complex is planned for the future that would be shared by both departments. By sharing facilities and continuing the cross training of employees, Poulos said the city could reduce the number of employees by four or five through attrition over the next couple of years. That would mean an annual savings of about $300,000.
Poulos told the board he had intended to put off the design of the utilities' portion of the project until after the water capacity study is completed in a month or so and the board makes decisions on things like whether to switch to Lake Michigan water rather than wells.
But, with the city moving ahead with the badly needed public works campus, it made sense to include the design of the utilities portion as well. If the decision is made not to build right away, the utilities have funds to pay Chester. If the board decides to build in the fall when the public works construction starts, the whole expense will be funded with a bond.
Even with the construction of the new facilities at the treatment plant, the utilities administration office on Billings Street will remain for people to pay their bills and conduct other business.