McHenry council approves 'Band-Aid' ahead of consolidation plans

McHENRY – The city is putting "another Band-Aid" on its central wastewater treatment plant, which hopes to decommission in the coming years, its public works director said.

In the meantime, two transfer switches and the accompanying wire will have to be installed at the plant so that the emergency generator turns on and the power supply is switched automatically during a power outage, Public Works Director Jon Schmitt said.

Without the upgrade, the response requires a city employee to arrive onsite and manually start the generator and switch the power, he said.

The McHenry City Council awarded the project and another one at its other wastewater treatment plant, both design and construction, to its engineering firm HR Green, waiving the public bidding requirements to the frustration of two aldermen.

Collectively, the contracts are worth about $165,000, a price that, Schmitt said in a memo, is lower than what the city would get if it had to hire HR Green to prepare the bid documents and then hire a contractor to do the actual work.

It would be a "waste of money" to send a small project like this out to bid, Alderman Richard Wimmer said.

"When it comes to this project and these plants, it just doesn't make sense," Alderman Geoff Blake agreed.

Alderman Victor Santi, however, said he would prefer to take the project out to bid, saying it could come in higher or it could come in lower but the city should find out.

"It seem like every engineering [project] is why bother, why bother, why bother," said Alderman Andy Glab, who also joined Santi in voting against waiving the bidding requirements and awarding the bid to HR Green.

While engineering projects and other professional service agreements don't require a public bidding process, the contract awarded Monday evening includes both construction and design, which means the public bidding requirements apply, city attorney David McArdle said.

The project, though, falls somewhere between a small maintenance project and a public improvement. That gives the city grounds to waive the bidding requirements, though as a home rule community, the city isn't required to follow them anyways, McArdle said.

The McHenry City Council hired HR Green earlier this year to do the engineering and oversee the consolidation of the city's two wastewater plants, a project that will cost an estimated $21 million to complete.

City staff and the city’s engineering firm have proposed using the state’s low-interest revolving loan fund under a timeframe that would allow the city to finish the consolidation process before its current agreement with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency is up.

If the McHenry City Council moves ahead with the project as planned, the improvements could cost the average wastewater user $150 a year over the next 20 years, assuming no new system users, City Administrator Derik Morefield said.

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