Tower ready to award bid for harbor dredging
Jodi Summit

TOWER- Bids on the city’s harbor dredging project came in as expected, but still higher than available funding.

City officials opened both bids at a Harbor Committee meeting Aug. 28, and noted that Marine Tech of Duluth was the apparent low bidder. The Tower City Council must still formally accept the bid at their regular monthly meeting on Monday, Sept. 8.

The project was bid in two parts, river dredging, plus a bid alternate for the actual harbor dredging, construction, and marina installation. Marine Tech bid $368,000 on the river dredging, and then $1,478,365 for the harbor work, giving a total project cost of over $1.8 million. Engineering and other “soft” costs will also need to be funded and will total approximately eight percent of construction costs.

City engineer Matt Bolf said the city, which has a little over $1.1 million in funding at this point in time, should be able to complete all the required dredging. Bolf’s initial review of the winning bid showed that the city would be able to cover the costs of the actual harbor excavation, rip-rapping, and other critical harbor infrastructure, but would not have the funding to cover the costs of the dockage, dock moorings, sidewalks, and landscaping. City officials, on Wednesday, said the contractor had agreed to complete the portion of the work that can be funded at this point, rather than hold the city to the entire project proposal.

The city’s permit from the DNR does not give the city the option of excavating only part of the harbor at one time. The city will need to do all the harbor excavation and dredging at one time in order to minimize environmental impacts.

The harbor committee agreed that excavating the harbor was the priority at this time, especially since the city is very close to signing the final development agreement for a planned hotel.

The city will also need to do some wetland mitigation, as part of the permit approval. The city will need to establish a 400-foot by five-foot wetland along the river’s shoreline, just past the designated site for the new DNR boat landing (on the north side of the new bridge). The cost for the wetland mitigation was not included in the bid, but city officials said they most likely will be able to hire a local contractor to do the required work.

The city will also look into doing a loan from the Gundersen Trust Fund to pay for some of the initial dockage. The city will be renting out this space, so there will be a funding source to repay the loan, said City Clerk-Treasurer Linda Keith.

The city is still waiting for the final permit approval from the Army Corps. The permit did receive approval from the Two Harbors office, and is now waiting for final approval in St. Paul. Jason Metsa, from U.S. Rep. Nolan’s office, attended the meeting, and said he can work with the city to finalize permits, if needed.

The city is also looking at applying for a grant from the IRRRB this fall to help with the costs of the infrastructure needed for the proposed hotel. The city needs to have a signed developer’s agreement in place prior to the grant deadline in mid-October.

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