Council members have seen too many single bid contracts lately

By Ralph Echtinaw

Add another $83,734 to this year’s cost of maintaining the city’s electric plant, as council awarded a contract in that amount Tuesday to replace a gas line.

This comes on the heels of a $125,000 contract approved June 4 to replace leaking radiators in the electric plant.

As council members have said multiple times, nothing associated with the electric plant is cheap.

Electric PlantFarabee Mechanical of Hickman, Nebraska got the contract for both jobs with no other companies bidding.

City Manager Kurt Giles expects the work to be done in August.

As the owner of an Electric Department, St. Louis buys electricity that is then sold to property owners. Only a fraction of the electricity we use is generated by the hydroelectric dam and the generators in the electric plant.

Giles explained the purpose of the generators via email:

“Generator sets 8 and 9 are for electrical generation onto our city’s distribution system. For the most part, they are peaking units that supplement incoming power if there is a shortage of generating facilities available and/or when prices from the MISO (Mid-continent Independent System Operator) market are extremely high.”

The 4-inch gas line replacement includes isolation valves, two gas flow meters and two gas regulators.

Mayor Pro-Tem Melissa Allen worried aloud that council is asked too often lately to approve hiring a contractor where only one bid was received. “It would be nice maybe to know of other companies that were reached out to,” she said.

Mayor James C. Kelly concurred. “It would be nice to get a list of the people that were contacted,” he said. “That would make us feel more comfortable, knowing it’s not the buddy system. If you contact somebody and get no bid I would like to see that listed.”

Allen suggested that perhaps the city should request bids earlier so contractors can fit jobs into their schedules.

Asked about this via email, Giles said, “We have had a few instances where potential bidders have declined due to their current work load. We received only one bid on the Mill Street resurfacing project, but we were successful in obtaining multiple bids for the Pine Street water main project. In most cases, when multiple quotes or bids are readily available, we obtain them. Some of the work involved at the power generating station is very specialized, so there are not a lot of options. What we will do, going forward, is expand our network of resources for some of this specialty work so there is more opportunity for multiple bidders.”

Pine River pollution

St. Louis residents Karen Aumaugher, Dora Boody and Pam Amiels, who live near the Pine River, attended the meeting to express concern about the growing problem of algae that has reduced the amount of wildlife in and around the river.

“I’ve lived here for over four years on Michigan Avenue, and it’s always been enjoyable,” Aumaugher said. “I sit with Dora on our porch and watch the swans and the ducks. Except for last year. Starting last year that river is scummy and nasty. There are no birds, no ducks, no swans, and it’s that way again this year. What is the problem and how do we fix it?”

Mayor Kelly said, “We want it cleaned up as badly as you do” and suggested that the trio contact the Healthy Pine River group, which is chaired by Alma resident Gary Rayburn.

Ballot issue coming?

The attorney who helped council add a 2 mill special assessment for public safety two years ago will return on Aug. 20 to answer questions about asking voters to approve the millage permanently.

As things stand now, the special assessment must be renewed each year by a vote of the council.

The attorney in question is Steven Mann of Miller Canfield in Detroit.

“It’s going to be a hard sell (to voters),” said Councilman Jerry Church. “A real hard sell. Most people don’t understand the cost of everything is going up.”

Giles said it would not be possible to put the question on this year’s ballot in November. Although there still is time to put a Headlee Amendment override on this year’s ballot that would restore the city’s operating millage to 15 from the current 13.1376. That’s something the St. Louis Schools have already done.

Councilman George Kubin said he would like to ask attorney Mann about a transportation millage, which would help fund the Alma Transit Center’s Dial-a-Ride service. “If we’re going to have transportation in the city then there should be a separate millage for it.” Kubin said.

The city currently gives $10,000 annually to the ATC because its buses serve St. Louis residents. 

For more information on the ATC situation, read a story about it here.

New DDA member

Council approved the appointment of Brandon Flegel of Flegel Tech for a vacancy on the Downtown Development Authority: “He’s been a good kind of go-getter so far,” said DDA Director Phil Hansen. “Not only has he put together a really nice business in a really nice place, he’s done a lot of stuff there. They’ve added a lot of things.”

The DDA board consists of Mary Anderson of Anderson Carpet, Mary Peterman of Chemical Bank, Corey Bailey of Commercial Bank, Lenore Worden of Hair Worx Plus, City Manager Kurt Giles, Scott Morrow of Peters Hardware, Stephen Near of Near Optometry, Jerry Lewis of Jim’s Barbershop, Carla McDaid of McDaid’s Chop Shop, Dana Saurman of River Rock, downtown property owner Bill Coty,  George Kubin of Kubin Furniture and now Brandon Flegel of Flegel Tech.

Who’s running?

Four St. Louis residents have turned in petitions with a sufficient number of signatures to be on the ballot in November for election to city council.

They are Bill Leonard, 73, Don Dean, 70, Roger Collison, 69, and this reporter, 60.

The four of us will compete to fill two city council seats that are open because council members Jerry Church and Melissa Allen are not seeking re-election.

Mayor James C. Kelly is on the ballot, too, but running unopposed.

All candidates are invited to write an article for the Sentinel to introduce themselves to voters.


There were no absences on the council. Council candidates Leonard and this reporter were present. Donald Dean and Roger Collison were not.

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