Grafton City Council hires engineer for flood diversion
KLJ approved by 5-4 vote
GRAFTON – By a 5-4 margin, the Grafton City Council voted Monday to hire the firm of Kadrmas, Lee and Jackson (KLJ) to do the engineering work and develop a plan for the city’s proposed flood diversion project.
As part of the request for qualifications or RFQ process, the city council interviewed four engineering firms last Wednesday and Thursday at two separate special meetings of the council meant to identify each firms qualifications to handle the project.
Council members scored each firm on eight different criteria on a scale of 1-10. Criteria included technical capabilities, experience and performance records, understanding of project and proposed work approach, knowledge of regulations and local conditions, project personnel assignments and qualifications, ability to respond in a timely manner, funding/marketing capacity and overall presentation.
As well as KLJ, candidates included the engineering firms of AE2S, Grand Forks, HDR, Thief River Falls, Minn., and Ulteig Engineering, Fargo.
Grafton Mayor Chris West thanked representatives of each firm in attendance for their excellent presentations and informed them that after the tedious scoring process, both KLJ and AE2S had identical scores.
Before opening up the matter for discussion, West told the council that one thing that stood out for him was the presentation by AE2S. He said he felt AE2S “thought out of the box” when, as part of their presentation they presented an alternative project that would bring a significant portion of the city out of the 100-year floodplain and by doing so would lessen homeowner’s flood insurance premiums.
West also told the council that he has set up a meeting with FEMA officials and Sen. John Hoeven to discuss Grafton’s flood diversion project.
Councilman Tim McDonald said he felt that both KLJ and AE2S had excellent presentations, but he was leaning toward AE2S because of their alternative plan proposal. Councilman Dave Fellman agreed but also said he hoped that the city would continue to keep the good working relationship it has with both firms.
Councilman Chris Lipsh said what AE2S “brought to the table” was nothing new.
“What they brought was plan three of the current plan, with a little new technology,” he said referring to flood control options developed by the Army Corps of Engineers.
Prior to the most recent vote on Grafton’s flood diversion, the Corps developed six different options. The third option, referred to as “plan three” calls for modification of Park River’s main channel and a tieback levee and interceptor drain to the west of Grafton.
The plan that city voters rejected in 2004 is option two of the Corp’s plan which calls for a 3.75 mile bypass channel, up to 8.3 miles of tieback levees, three railroad bridges, one highway bridge, a gated control structure a diversion structure and a drop structure.
Lipsh said that since project proposals weren’t part of the criteria in the selection process, AE2S’s proposed plan shouldn’t figure into the council’s decision.
“It wasn’t part of the RFQ, so we shouldn’t consider it,” he said.
Lipsh also said he felt that having a local firm (KLJ) working on the project would help keep costs down.
“We need to do our due diligence to make sure we spend our money properly,” Lipsh said, referring to the costs associated with a phased project like the flood diversion. “I firmly believe that having a firm right here locally could potentially lessen the amount of money that we are going to spend.”
Councilman Len Wysocki said he was leaning toward KLJ because they have done engineering work with the city over the past several flood events.
Mayor West told the council that any plan that is developed still needs to be pre-approved by FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers. He also said the city has the right to reject or negotiate the price of the project before construction.
After further lengthy discussion, Lipsh made the motion to hire KLJ for the flood diversion project and it was seconded by Hutson. Voting in favor of the motion were Lipsh, Hutson, Greg Young, Shane Moen and Len Wysocki. Voting no were Dave Fellman, Tim McDonald, Mary Stark and Ken Gebhardt.