At last night’s meeting, Ann Arbor City Council took a major step in approving a massive project to overhaul the city’s ailing wastewater treatment system.

The council unanimously approved a resolution to tentatively award a $92.9 million contract to Walsh Construction Company to improve aging components of the city’s wastewater treatment plant, located in Ann Arbor township of US-23 near Dixboro Road and Geddes Road.

The plant — which was originally built in 1936 — currently services about 130,000 people in the city of Ann Arbor and areas of Ann Arbor, Pittsfield and Scio Townships, and process nearly 19 million gallons of wastewater per day.

If a final resolution passes next month, Walsh Construction would be responsible for the demolition of the oldest parts of the infrastructure that currently lie beneath the center of the city.

In order for the council to definitively award the contract, the city’s Wastewater Treatment Services must get a loan approved by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. The loan application is due to the MDEQ on Feb. 21.

Earl J. Kenzie, Ann Arbor’s wastewater treatment services unit manager, said the resolution council approved yesterday is a necessary step for his department to obtain the loan from the state.

“This tentative award is part of what is needed in hand for that part of the application,” Kenzie said. “The resolution states that we recommend Walsh Construction as a qualified and responsible bidder.”

In an interview after the resolution passed, Kenzie said his staff worked hard to prepare the proposal for city council.

“The process involved in this was very long term, there was a planning process that went in place,” Kenzie said. “We actually had members of the community on the project team during the planning phase because this really is a very significant capital investment.”

Kenzie said the process took six years and required an exhaustive examination of the current facilities.

“What we wanted to do was make sure that we wouldn’t just run out and replace something every time it broke,” Kenzie said. “We took a hard look at the plant that started back in the late 30s, and continued through the 60s and we said ‘We’ve lost this capacity, what’s the best way to replace it?’”

Kenize said he and his staff have met with council often over the past few years to finalize plans for the project.

“We went through a lot of regulatory reviews and approval so we’ve certainly kept coming back and providing information,” Kenzie said.

During the meeting, councilmember Mike Anglin (D–Ward 5) commended Kenzie for involving Walsh in communications with the council.

“It’s kind of unusual for a company to come forward to us as council and say things to us, but I notice in your diligence you had a meeting to bring the bidders in and we had our staff,” Anglin said.

Councilmember Jane Lumm (D–Ward 2) said she was impressed by the report that recommended Walsh that was drafted by Kenzie and staff members from Malcolm Pirnie, the engineering service firm hired to oversee the project.

“Malcolm Pirnie did provide a very professional, in-depth memo in their recommendation and their rationale seems sound, and I will congratulate you on the fact that I think the bid and evaluation process were quite robust,” Lumm said.

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