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BPU to have model built of hydro dam

The Brainerd Public Utilities Commission Tuesday approved a contract to construct a model of the city's hydro dam. Scott Magnuson, BPU superintendent, presented to the commission a contract from Barr Engineering to develop and complete a model of...

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The contract, totaling $130,100, is for building the model and testing 20 different modifications for the dam, Scott Magnuson, BPU superintendent said. "(They'll) put some riprap in, see what happens, put an end sill in, see what happens, to come up with the ultimate design of what is needed out there." Brainerd Dispatch file photo.

The Brainerd Public Utilities Commission Tuesday approved a contract to construct a model of the city's hydro dam.

Scott Magnuson, BPU superintendent, presented to the commission a contract from Barr Engineering to develop and complete a model of the dam in order to come up with a better design for the facility.

The contract, totaling $130,100, is for building the model and testing 20 different modifications for the dam, Magnuson said.

"(They'll) put some riprap in, see what happens, put an end sill in, see what happens," Magnuson said. "To come up with the ultimate design of what is needed out there."

The contract also includes work on an emergency action plan BPU has to complete, Magnuson said.

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The commission approved building a model pending attorney review at its May 26 meeting. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is also "excited" about the model, Magnuson said.

"When the actual testing is done, FERC wants to go out there and look at it," Magnuson said. "They're definitely involved and want to be involved."

The motion to approve the contract passed on a 3-2 vote, with commissioners Don Samuelson and Dolly Matten voting against.

Matten said she thought the commission approved building a model, but not the engineering firm that would complete it.

"I didn't know we actually approved which engineer would be moving forward with it," Matten said.

Magnuson responded BPU had been working with Barr Engineering "all along."

"I guess we never confirmed that they would be the engineers helping us," Magnuson said.

In other business, Magnuson presented the commission with a contract to install a new drain and driveway at the dam. The current driveway and drains are old and outdated, BPU reported.

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Magnuson presented a contract from Anderson Brothers Construction for $26,864 for the project, and it was the only contract submitted for the project. Commissioner Mark O'Day said he'd like to see more bids for the project before committing to one.

"I don't know what the costs are," O'Day said. "I always like to see more than one."

There is no start date for the project, so Matten said it could be put off while BPU seeks more bids for the project. Magnuson confirmed he would seek more bids for the project.

O'Day referenced the previously approved contract from Barr Engineering to build a model of the dam, which was the only bid received for the project.

"If we have more than one, I feel a little more comfortable," O'Day said. "Because I don't know if we're getting screwed or not."

Commissioner Lucy Nesheim said BPU has worked with Anderson Brothers in the past, and they have "been very satisfactory." O'Day said he didn't disagree with Nesheim's assessment of Anderson Brothers' previous work for BPU.

It should become BPU's common practice to get multiple bids for a project, in order to ensure the organization isn't overpaying, Matten said.

"If they're all within a few percentage difference, that's one thing," Matten said. "To me, it's just always nice, regardless of the project."

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The commission asked Gary Scheeler, who was in attendance, for his opinion on the issue. Scheeler serves as the Brainerd City Council's liaison on the commission.

Scheeler said when contractors are busy, they will bid projects high in order to control the amount of work a firm is doing.

"If they're really super busy, they're going to throw out twice the number," Scheeler said. "That's how they curb the amount of work that comes in their door."

During the president's report, Nesheim provided a summary of performance evaluations of Secretary/Finance Director Todd Wicklund and Magnuson, which had been conducted in an hour-long closed session at the May 26 meeting.

About Magnuson, Nesheim said he "is a great team player and works effectively with our other employees. He does a good job of mentoring new, young employees."

Nesheim said Wicklund "is an excellent employee in all aspects of his position. His leadership and management, his efforts have been outstanding."

Nesheim also thanked both Wicklund and Magnuson for their "hard work this past year, especially regarding the dam projects and everything else."

SPENSER BICKETT may be reached at 218-855-5859 or spenser.bickett@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/spenserbickett .

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