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Committee questions dam differences

Members wonder why one estimate was four times more than another



An update on the Chelsea Dam project during the Nov. 1 Taylor County Forestry meeting turned into a discussion about what may or may not have been missed between wildly different engineering estimates on the project.

During forest administrator Jake Walcisak’s update on the Chelsea Lake Dam project, committee member Gene Knoll asked about the difference in the project costs quotes from Flambeau Engineering ($60,000) and Ayres Associates ($250,000) and wondered if Ayres was exceeding the scope of the project when their estimate was five times higher than Flambeau’s.

Walcisak said Ayres was following the original scope of the project with the addition of applying for a municipal dam grant from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). He said the most recent directive from the DNR prior to the county taking ownership of the dam, dated January 2016, calls for the dam to be replaced and that has not changed.

“If you can come up with why the estimates are so far apart, I would like to hear your thought,” Walcisak said.

Knoll said he wasn’t at last month’s meeting when the costs differences first came up and apologized if the committee had “already plowed this ground.”

See COMMITTEE Committee member Mike Bub said they hadn’t and thought that was the problem. He said the committee was getting certain information and not understanding it, point out on one hand they’re told it was a full rebuild and on the other being told it was repairing the dam. Bub said at some point, someone needs to sit down with the committee and explain exactly what’s going on in order for them to make an informed decision.

Bub went on to say he would like to have Mark Stephenson from the DNR come to a meeting because Stephenson seems to say one thing to some people and another thing to other people and that’s what is confusing, adding he didn’t see how someone could be on both sides of the fence at the same time.

Walcisak reiterated that the scope of the project had not changed other than adding the grant application. He said what he and Ayres believe is that the engineer from Flambeau mostly likely did not include some of the necessary elements of the project in the price quote.

Bub said what he needed was for someone to explain what was not included in the quote. Walcisak said that would involve bringing the former engineer back into the project. Bub replied that Ayres can say what was missed. Walcisak said Ayres doesn’t know what was missed and it was just their speculation that something was missed in the quote. He said the only way to know what was missed was to bring the former engineer back into the project and since the county had released her from the agreement, he wasn’t sure how willing she would be to do that.

The committee agreed they need answers as to why the estimated cost of the project jumped from $60,000 to $250,000 before making the decision to proceed with the project. Walcisak said if the committee wanted him to, he would try to contact the former engineer and find out her opinion on what the scope of the project involved.

Committee chairman Chuck Zenner asked if it would be possible to have the former engineer and someone from Ayres come to a meeting to answer committee member’s questions. Walcisak said he could certainly try to do that, but didn’t think it would be of any value to also invite the DNR to the meeting, as Bub and Knoll had suggested earlier. He said the DNR simply approves what is given them and wouldn’t know if anything had been left out.

Logging bids

Committee members approved putting four timber sales in the county forest out on bids.

The Trout Spruce sale, located at the intersection of Trout Avenue and Porky Drive, covers 45 acres with an estimated value of $25,016. The Big K sale, located off Cutoff Road, covers 119 acres with an estimated value of $89,034. The Falasky sale, located along Emil Drive, covers 94 acres with an estimate value of $42,928. The Emils Web sale, also located along Emil Drive, covers 33 acres with an estimated value of $19,139. Total estimated value of the four sales is $176,117.

The bids will be opened and possibly awarded at the committee’s December meeting.