Water tower discussion
STEVE RAMES (from left), Dick Pfeil and Shane Clausen participate in a discussion Monday night at the Norfolk city council meeting.

The Norfolk City Council approved a nearly $1.8 million contract for a new water tower at its regular meeting Monday night after a competitor in the bidding process attempted to dissuade the council against it.

The contract for an elevated water tank was awarded to Gerard Tank and Steel, based in Concordia, Kansas. City engineer and public works director Steve Rames said the company's bid was the lowest while also meeting a number of minimum experience requirements sought by the city.

Rames said the city was seeking bidders that possessed experience in designing and building large, elevated water tanks. Gerard Tank and Steel, he said, met those requirements. In particular, he said, the company’s project manager brings nearly 40 years of experience by himself.

Among the company’s experience is a water tower in O’Neill under construction.

Carter Spoelstra, representative of Caldwell Tanks, a Louisville, Kentucky, based company that also submitted a bid, asked the council to reconsider.

Spoelstra submitted a letter to the council on behalf of Caldwell Tanks, citing concerns about Gerard Tank and Steel.

“I ask you to reconsider and look at this again at a later date,” Spoelstra said.

Council member Jim Lange said the letter did raise some concerns, but Rames and other council members remained confident in their selection.

Rames said that Olsson, which was hired as a consultant for the project, contacted four municipalities to verify Gerard Tank and Steel’s credentials, and the reviews came back positive.

“There were no red flags raised at all,” Rames said. “I’m very confident in their abilities.”

Norfolk Mayor Josh Moenning also expressed his confidence in the bidding process.

“This is a fairly commonplace practice in which the city receives bids and the public works department reviews those, not only for cost but for responsibility and the capabilities of the bidders,” Moenning said.

Rames also said that while building the tower is not a “cookie-cutter process,” the design and engineering on that type of tower is proven and the chance of collapse or leakage would be essentially zero.

The council also discussed another contract infrastructure contract.

A change was made to a contract with JKK Construction of Ceresco for bridge repairs, which added $177,000 to the original $500,000 bid.

The contractor found that the bridge on First Street over the North Fork of the Elkhorn River is in need of more repair than previously thought. The change also adds 48 days to the timetable for the repairs.

Council member Rob Merrill questioned Rames about how the extent of the damage was missed in the original assessments of the bridge.

Rames said a solution in the future would be to close bridges to traffic to allow for closer inspection, to which Merrill agreed, if it would save the city from a costly change down the road.

The change was approved unanimously.

The rest of the council’s agenda was light; the council appointed Brianna Duerst as the new city clerk, approved a zoning change at Faith Regional Health Services and declared an area along East Omaha Avenue to be substandard for redevelopment purposes.

The Norfolk City Council met Monday at 5:30 p.m. at the Norfolk City Council Chambers.

Council members present: Mayor Josh Moenning, Dick Pfeil, Corey Granquist, Shane Clausen, Jim Lange, Gary L. Jackson, Rob Merrill, Fred Wiebelhaus, Thad Murren.

Council members absent: None.

Meeting lasted: 45 minutes.

Others in attendance: City staff, five; media representatives, two; and about 10 from the public.

Action items:

— One item was moved from the consent agenda to the regular agenda at the beginning of the meeting, and the amended agenda was approved.

— The council approved the appointment of Brianna Duerst as city clerk for the remainder of the mayor’s four-year term.

— The council held a public hearing and approved an amendment to the East Omaha Redevelopment Area, adding 2.27 acres and declaring the amended area to be blighted and substandard.

— The council held a public hearing at the request of Faith Regional Health Services and approved a zoning change from C-2A (Special Business District) to C-3 (Service Commercial District) at the southwest corner of West Norfolk Avenue and 27th Street.

— The council approved on second reading an ordinance to annex the right-of-way along a portion of Highway 35. The ordinance passed on first reading at the previous council meeting.

— The council approved a contract with Gerard Tank and Steel of Concordia, Kansas, for the construction of an elevated water tank for $1,799,500.

— The council approved a contract with Rutjens Construction for Northeast Industrial booster station improvements for about $376,000.

— The council approved a change in a contract with JKK Construction for 2019 Norfolk bridge repairs, resulting in an increase of about $177,000.

— The council went into a closed session to discuss potential litigation.

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