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Despite 50% jump in cost, Bloomington OKs $1.5M contract for water pump station work

The Bloomington City Council meets Monday, Nov. 14, 2022, in the downtown Government Center.
Michele Steinbacher
The Bloomington City Council meets Monday, Nov. 14, 2022, in the downtown Government Center.

The Bloomington City Council on Monday approved a $1.5 million contract to cover the Fort Jesse Road water pump station project, despite a 50% cost hike over the original proposal.

“It’s the pandemic. The supply chain issue is driving up the cost for equipment,” Bloomington City Manager Tim Gleason said after the meeting. “We’re seeing this on a number of the items that we’re replacing.”

The Fort Jesse pump stations will get a new generator, and workers will complete a complex rewiring of electrical systems to minimize the risk of both pumps failing simultaneously.

Also at Monday's meeting at the downtown Government Center, the council heard an annual report about the city’s finances and its annual audit; and awarded a $200,000 contract to improve the Bloomington Police Department’s ventilation system.

Pump stations’ generator, electrical work planned

The council voted 7-0 to award the $1.5 million contract to William Masters, the lowest of two bidders.

Ward 4’s Julie Emig was absent, on medical leave, and Ward 5’s Nick Becker abstained from voting due to a business conflict.

The proposal also calls for Donoghue & Associates, which designed the plan, to get $77,000 as the city’s representative throughout construction.

The city originally budgeted $1 million for the project. But because of the higher cost now expected, the council will need to move about $541,000 to its water fund budget.

“This is one we budgeted — knew that we needed to replace it — $1 million, this time last year. And when it comes time to purchase it, it’s $1.5 million. It just kills me that it’s a 50% increase,” said Gleason.

The inflation climate has required city staff to step up and work even more on these projects, with more oversight than usual with changing costs and budget adjustment plans, Gleason told WGLT.

The Fort Jesse pump stations are critical to maintaining water pressure and meeting demand throughout Bloomington, according to staff. The generator has outgrown its 25-year lifespan. It’s the back-up for the two Bloomington-owned pumps, at 1513 Fort Jesse Road, Normal.

The first is nearly 50 years old. But when the second was installed in the 1990s, the first pump’s path to power became dependent on the newer one. That’s a problem because if the new pump fails, so would the older one. That could cause pressure and water supply issues across the city.

BPD station, city hall in line for some upgrades

The council also voted 8-0 to award a $204,000 contract for Technical Solutions & Services to upgrade the Bloomington Police Department's heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system. The station is at 305 S. East Street.


At nearby city hall, at 109 E. Olive St., plans are in place for the building's old elevator to be replaced.
The current elevator is not compliant with The Americans with Disabilities Act.

In another unanimous vote, the council awarded an $85,000 contract to Bailey Edward Design for the firm to design plans for a new elevator there. It’s possible a new one could cost up to $250,000.

Ward 9’s Tom Crumpler said he thinks this is a good use of the city’s money — to add equipment meeting ADA rules. But he said he’s curious what plans are for the building overall.

Prior to spring of 2020, city council meetings were in that building. Despite the city moving some functions to the downtown Government Center and Grossinger Motors Arena, Gleason said city staff still fully occupy the Olive Street location.

City Hall now serves as a public works department campus, he said.

City annual finance report, audit unremarkable

Also at Wednesday’s meeting, the council heard an annual report about the city’s finances, and information about a related audit.

The annual report found the general fund has a $7.4 million surplus, after transfers.

Michael Malatt, with the auditing firm Baker, Tilley, Virchow, Krause, told the council the city's FY2022 audit results were "boring," and that clean finding is good news.

Malatt said the results were an unmodified, clean opinion.

Bloomington Finance Director Scott Rathbun said completing the report and audit is a six-month process.

That requires coordinating with several other audits, including the Bloomington Police Department’s pension fund, as well as the foundations for Miller Park Zoo and the Bloomington Public Library.

The audit's nearly 200 pages. “It’s quite a heavy lift,” said Rathbun. "It's not something that typically your, normal, community resident would refer to," he said. But, rating agencies and investors do look at the audit, he said.

In other business, the council:

  • Approved a $78,000 contract with Sentinel Technologies, to improve computer networking at the Government Center. 
  • OK’d the final plat for The Villas at Prairie Vista, a development east of U.S. 51 and South Main Street, just west of Southgate Estates.
  • Granted a six-month extension to G.A. Rich & Sons for work on the settled water improvements project. 
  • Recognized two businesses and three homes that received annual beautification awards.
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Michele Steinbacher is a WGLT correspondent. She joined the staff in 2020.
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