St. Louis firm to build new Cape sewer plant for $55 million

Monday, July 16, 2012

St. Louis-based KCI Construction is set to be awarded a $55.6 million contract to build Cape Girardeau's new wastewater treatment plant, an amount city officials said could hold the line on another sewer rate increase while still providing a facility to bring the city into compliance with federal and state treatment regulations.

The Cape Girardeau City Council at its meeting Monday will consider a resolution to authorize an agreement with KCI, whose bid was the lowest of five and about $8 million less than an engineering firm's construction estimate of $63 million. If the council approves, which is almost a certainty, work on the two-year project is slated to start late next month at the Public Works site at 2007 Southern Expressway.

Public Works director Tim Gramling said while the low bid was a "positive one," he had still been hopeful it would have come in even lower. But after he talked with those at Jacobs Engineering, which designed the new plant, he was told that the bid was an acceptable one.

"It sounds like this is probably as low as it could go," Gramling said.

KCI was one of 12 companies that had been prequalified, a requirement to even submit a bid, because they have done projects of similar size and scope. Twelve companies were prequalified but only five submitted bids. The bids ranged from KCI's low to a high of $63.7 million for the construction of the new plant as well as the decommissioning and partial demolition of the existing plant off South Sprigg Street.

KCI, founded in 1922, is currently working on a $54 million expansion of the wastewater treatment plant in Columbia, Mo., to increase plant capacity there. According to its website, the company employs about 200. The company has also done projects for the St. Louis Zoo, the University of Missouri-St. Louis and other work for municipal sewer systems.

Gramling is confident that KCI is more than capable of doing the work.

"All 12 of them that we prequalified could have done the job," Gramling said. "We'd be confident with any of them."

That the bid came in lower than expected could mean sewer rates may not have to be increased again, Gramling said. City users last year saw average monthly sewer charges jump from $13.54 a month to $33.23 a month, which pays for roughly 5,000 gallons of water. Voters in April 2011 approved increases of even more. About eighty percent of city voters said yes to two propositions that constituted the city's plan to generate as much as $72 million to pay for the treatment plant and a multitude of system improvements.

Voters agreed to extend a quarter-cent capital improvement sales tax and a separate proposition that authorized the $72 million in bonds. The sales tax revenue was to be used to repay the bonds. The city since has been authorized for two State Revolving Fund low-interest loans for the annual amounts of $31 million and a second $39 million.

In light of the low bid and the approval of the loans, Gramling said city officials didn't think they'd have to raise rates as high as they originally anticipated. Jacobs Engineering has been tasked to do an analysis to see if there is a need for additional increases, Gramling said. A few variables remain, Gramling said, including other improvements to the wastewater collection system and to the inflow and infiltration systems to prevent stormwater or groundwater from getting into the sewer system.

The roughly $10 million for those improvements is covered by the state revolving fund loans but are not part of the KCI contract, Gramling said. Also, the soil conditions at the site of the new plant are unknown and sometimes can cause a bid overrun during the foundation work, he said.

"Some things you just don't anticipate," Gramling said. "We want to wait to get past that first phase before we dive into other things, just so the treatment plant costs doesn't get driven way up because of that."

KCI will be on a tight deadline to complete the project by June 2014, a time frame that has been put in place by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. The current plant is over its 7 million gallons per day capacity. During peak usage times, such as after heavy rains, untreated sewage is dumped into the Mississippi River about 30 to 40 times a year. Those are violations to state and federal regulations each time it happens.

This violations resulted in the city paying a $15,000 civil penalty. The city agreed to build a new wastewater treatment facility by June 2014 to avoid further fines as well as build an $111,000 supplemental environmental project.

The new plant is designed to handle an average flow of 11 million gallons per day and a peak capacity of 50 million gallons a day. Jacobs Engineering has said the new plant is projected to handle wastewater for at least 20 years, with the actual structure expected to last 50 years with room for expansion.

Mayor Harry Rediger said that the KCI bid came in low was good news for the city.

"Hopefully the rate increases we had to pass on to pay for that are going to be enough to do the job," he said. "It's too early to really speculate on that, though. You've got to get it built. But this is a good first step."


Pertinent address:

2007 Southern Expressway, Cape Girardeau, MO

429 Cooper St., Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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