The Norman Transcript

July 8, 2013

Animal Welfare Center, sewer rates up for discussion

By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Two Norman City Council Conference sessions this week will throw three newly elected council members directly into the fire of decision making. At 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, council members will hear a presentation on the Animal Welfare Center renovation and project costs, and Wednesday, the council will discuss a citywide vote to increase the sewer rates.

Both nonvoting discussion meetings are open to the public.

Despite a lean budget this year, the city council may decided to appropriate an additional $171,820 from the Capital Fund balance to cover recommended contractual elements for the new Animal Welfare project. Proposed changes in building plans will be reviewed at Tuesday’s conference meeting.

Voters approved of the $3 million bond project in November 2011. In June 2012, the city council awarded Tevis Architecture Group the design contract.

During development of the plans for the new shelter, architects worked with city staff and the Animal Welfare Oversight Committee to identify best practices and how to address the most pressing operational concerns at the shelter.

The circa 1973 animal shelter had stacked cages and poor ventilation — potential health hazards for animals, city staff and volunteers who work with the animals. An adoption center was added in 2003 to provide a more comfortable space for some of the most adoptable animals, but facilities remained inadequate.

The Tevis design was bid in April. The base bid included the highest priority components. Alternate items were also bid to give the city flexibility within the limits of the available budget.

There were also items in the base bid that could be removed, if desired. Those include the SMT cleaning system, the energy recovery ventilators, powered ultra-violet filtration units, a sally port, a multipurpose room and skylights.

Items that could be added if the budget allows includes a cat porch, a generator, synthetic turf system and play yards, a sloped roof system and resinous flooring.

Bids were evaluated using a weighted scale that included the contract amount (35 percent), time of construction, experience, past performance, and warranty. The evaluation team included city staff, architects and two members of the Animal Oversight Committee.

Cooley Construction was the highest ranked bidder with an estimated 10-month construction time and a base bid of $2,588,000 which was also the lowest bid.

Following the bidding process, however, Cooley notified the architects that there had been two errors made in the bid. Even with those adjustments, Cooley remains the lowest bidder and retains the highest ranking in the evaluation.

City staff recommends awarding the bid to Cooley for $2,624,000. Changes under consideration would be to delete the energy recovery ventilator at a savings of $9,000 but to include the resinous flooring for an increase of $45,000.

Other changes under consideration would save money by deleting extras in sign modification, building canopies, fencing materials, lighting options, parking and doors, glass and pipes.

If all recommended changes are approved by the city council, $171,820 will need to be appropriated from the Capital Fund balance to make up the difference. Currently, there is $2,631,180 available in the Animal Welfare Construction account.

Tuesday, council members will discuss these options and are expected to vote on the project later under the consent docket at the 6:30 p.m. council meeting.

On Wednesday, also at 5:30 p.m., the city council will discuss needed improvements to the city’s sewer treatment system. Currently, the city is under a Department of Environmental Quality consent order and must upgrade the south side Water Reclamation Center that treats all of Norman’s sewage. The city is planning on a ballot initiative in November to pay for $63 million worth of improvements. In addition to making DEQ required upgrades, the city will replace aging equipment and increase the plant’s treatment capacity by 5 million gallons per day.

City staff is expected to present rate increase options. Current monthly charges of a $3.90 base rate and $1.60 per 1,000 gallons of treated sewage were established in 1996.

In 2001, $5 per month sewer maintenance fee was added to pay for sewer line replacement. An excise tax on development pays for new development, and a temporary half-penny sales tax that ended in 2006 was designated to pay for expansion of existing services.

While most of that temporary sales tax has been used, the remaining funds and how to use them have been the subject of heated controversy.

Norman’s wastewater rates are lower than 15 other comparable cities including Moore and Stillwater.

Joy Hampton