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Council hears from water plant finalists

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Yellow Springs moved a step closer to constructing its new water plant last week when on Thursday, Dec. 10, Council members heard presentations from two finalist construction firms vying for the contract to build the plant.

“We have two excellent proposals that we need to explore further,” Manager Patti Bates said following the presentations. According to Bates, a recommendation on the first-choice firm will be presented to Council no later than its first meeting in January. Village leaders hope to start the construction of the plant this summer, although restrictions on a loan the Village has received from the Ohio Public Works Commission, or OPWC, stipulate that construction can’t begin until July. Plant completion is anticipated to be sometime in the fall of 2017.

The two finalist firms, Shook Construction and CDM Smith, were chosen by the Village water plant team from 12 firms that responded to a call for the project, according to Bates. The team, which has overseen the water plant process, is composed of Council members Karen Wintrow and Gerry Simms; the three operators of the current water plant, who are Brad Ault, Richard Stockton and John Christenson; Johnnie Burns, head of the Village electric and water distribution crew; and consultant Sam Swanson of the engineering firm HNTB.

The estimated cost of the new plant is $5.3 million, according to Bates. While the original estimate was $3.5 million, that amount grew after Council agreed earlier this year to add pellet softening to the project. The need for softening was made clear after Village leaders met last year with the Village’s major water consumers, who spoke of the significant cost to their businesses of softening local water, which is extremely hard, interim Village manager Kent Bristol said at the time. Council earlier this year chose pellet softening as the least expensive and most environmentally sustainable softening technique.

Both Shook Construction and CDM Smith in their presentations said they could cut the cost of the project, although the amounts the firms projected as savings differed.

Shook Construction Project Lead Joe Mellon estimated that about 5 percent of the cost could be cut with a redesign of the plant that would produce a more open floor plan. However, Steven Boden of CDM Smith estimated that about $1 million, or almost 20 percent, could be cut from the cost with a redesign and reuse of some plant components.

Aside from the different cost projections, the companies both stressed values they hold in common with the Village, including a transparent process, a commitment to quality and a collaborative process. Shook is the smaller firm, with headquarters in Cleveland and several offices in Ohio and Indiana. A national firm, CDM Smith has offices in Cincinnati and Columbus and 5,000 employees nationwide.

Other differences between the firms include that Shook would partner with a design firm, Jones & Henry, while CDM Smith includes both design and construction capabilities within its business. Also, Shook would “self-perform,” or use mainly its own workers for the job, in order to control costs and quality, according to Mellon, while CDM Smith would mainly contract workers from the area.

“We’ll work with the Village to find out what subcontractors and vendors you want to use,” Boden said.

It’s been several years since Council began considering how best to address problems at the current water plant, which is more than 50 years old and prone to breakdowns. After deciding to build a new water plant rather than purchase water from another town or refurbish the old plant, Council a year ago hired the engineering firm HNTB as the criteria engineer on the project, which involves designing up to the first 30 percent of the plant and overseeing the remainder of the design/build construction project.

Council chose the design/build model rather than the more traditional design/bid because design/build is considered faster and more economical, according to Council President Karen Wintrow. In design/build, there is considerable collaboration between the design firm and the builders at the beginning of the project, so that problems are solved up front, resulting in fewer last-minute change orders and added expenses. In the traditional model of design/bid, there is little collaboration between the designer and the construction firm.

The Village water plant team will look closely at the two proposals and return to Council soon with a recommendation, Bates said.


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