BLP approves $230,000 in MEC budget changes

Tourville

MARQUETTE — The Marquette Board of Light and Power at a recent meeting approved almost $230,000 worth of change order items to the general work contract of the Marquette Energy Center project, excluding the two most expensive items for further review and consideration.

The BLP Board of Directors last week also awarded a bid for an underground installation contract, heard updates on the progress of the MEC construction and the solar garden project, heard a presentation about the community master plan and reviewed its earlier meeting time.

The original change order from Miron Construction — the third in the general work contract so far — totaled about $591,000.

Chairman Tom Tourville said they’ll talk about the two excluded items at the next BLP board meeting at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.

“Obviously, the whole reason is to give us clarity, more information,” Tourville said. “Speaking just for myself, I’m very impressed and happy with all the contractors out there, Miron included, but what my brain is having a hard time wrapping around is this delay was a cost impact to Miron of $241,000 and I just can’t get my arms around that.”

Irby

The original general work contract with Miron approved in August was for $13.5 million, according to a letter to the board from Executive Director Paul Kitti.

Board member Jerry Irby moved to approve the changes excluding the two items — $242,000 for equipment delays and $122,000 for purchase and installation of steel for air handling units.

“And then I think Ken (Mixer of Sargent & Lundy) probably will be here and I’d like to see somebody from Wartsila too to explain these a little bit more thoroughly and to explore the big items,” Irby said. “I’d just like to see a face here, where we can, as a board, ask questions.”

The construction delay charge was incurred due to late deliveries of Wartsila radiators, lube oil tanks and pump skids; Trane air handling units; and the Vulcan Pump pre-fabricated pump house, which was related to Wartsila’s late pump skids, according to Kitti’s letter.

The second item was part of expected changes because design information for the air handling units was not available at the time of the original bid. Designs were deliberately only two-thirds complete when bidding began so the project could meet desired deadlines.

The board unanimously approved the other items for a total of about $227,000.

Staff had evaluated and recommended the full amount, as had Sargent & Lundy.

A letter to the board from Mixer, S&L project manager, said all parties involved made “an admirable effort to minimize the impacts” of the delays, with Wartsila air freighting equipment to the site for just a three-week extension to the schedule.

Mixer said they worked with Miron, Wartsila and their subcontractors to come up with a reasonable solution with the least cost impact overall, by adjusting manpower and expediting deliveries.

“Initially, Miron was looking at an eight-week or more delay because of these late equipment deliveries, which certainly would’ve impacted the commercial operation,” Mixer said.

Kitti said the payment delay shouldn’t be a problem and that someone from Wartsila will be at the next meeting to answer questions. Mixer offered to send board members more details.

In a construction update, Mixer said the project was about 95 percent complete, with about 1 percent per week expected through completion. Commissioning started last week and the project is on track to be completed by late June, he said.

The original $6 million contingency fund, included in the $65 million price tag of the project, still retains about $4.9 million, Mixer said.

In an update on the solar garden project, Assistant Director David Lynch said those who signed the interest list on the BLP’s website should have started receiving information about purchasing solar panels starting Friday last week.

The board also approved a bid for a three-year contract for small to medium residential and commercial underground line extension projects to low bidder Northern Utility of Rapid River.

A letter from BLP staff said their overall price structure was on average 31 percent lower per unit than L&H Utility Contractors, the only other bidder. Bidding opened on March 31. The contract lasts until March 2020.

Northern Utility has done quality workmanship for the BLP’s underground projects since 2006, the letter said. Large underground construction projects will be bid on an individual basis.

The board also discussed whether its new meeting time, which changed in January from 5:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., was working.

Most board members and staff expressed support of the earlier time but some public commenters said meetings should take place after the regular 9-5 workday. No action was taken, but Tourville said more input from the public is welcome and the board will review the change again.

Planning Commission Chairman Taylor Klipp gave a presentation about the process of crafting a community master plan, inviting input from BLP staff.

Klipp said main concerns for the BLP would be transparency in its own land use, community planning and residential energy.

“Having everyone on board in terms of … how energy use is (going to) work, that’s a huge deal, because we’re talking about capital improvement, infrastructure and big dollars the city spends and the big dollars you guys spend,” Klipp said. “Then the final piece is residential, because we are (going to) get to a point where we’re putting a lot of solar on roofs and I’m thinking there’s (going to) be a point where there’s turbines, that sort of thing. … You’re (going to) know a lot more about that than any of us will, so it’ll be helpful.”

Mary Wardell can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is mwardell@miningjournal.net.