Bend’s long-overdue sewer plant expansion could be completed by February 2019.

The Bend City Council is expected to vote Dec. 20 on a $7.5 million contract with Minnesota-based M.A. Mortenson Co., a company it brought in to manage the plant’s construction in September 2015. If the City Council approves the contract, work would resume at the sewer plant in January.

A project begun in 2013 aimed to double the plant’s capacity by summer 2015, but the city removed its original contractor, Washington-based Apollo Inc., with the plant expansion only 85 percent complete after Apollo fell nearly a year behind schedule.

City staff has been negotiating with Mortenson since May, following a City Council agreement to allow the company to finish construction without going through a public bidding process. At the time, city staff said Mortenson was the only company with the knowledge to quickly complete the project, but negotiations with the Minnesota contractor took longer than expected.

This is in part because the company had to go through shipping containers of parts abandoned when Apollo left the project, Bend engineering and infrastructure planning director Tom Hickmann said.

The city wanted to avoid repurchasing anything already on site.

“It’s been kind of an awkward thing to be transitioning from a job where we had one contractor kind of just walk leaving everything there,” Hickmann said.

The $7.5 million number is larger than the maximum $5 million to $7 million city officials said they wanted during a meeting in late September, but the city has enough budgeted for capital improvement projects during the two-year budget cycle ending in 2019 to cover it, City Manager Eric King said.

The remaining work, which includes retrofitting two wastewater aeration basins, will cost more than the city anticipated, project manager Joshua Robertson said.

“Costs have escalated and you’re also in a different environment than we were when we started the project,” he said. “It’s not a complete apples-to-apples comparison, but it does give us a starting point.”

Coupled with the more than $24 million the city’s already spent on construction, the sewer plant expansion will cost about the $32 million the city anticipated it would in 2013. However, that doesn’t include money the city has already spent fighting an $8 million lawsuit with Apollo. A Deschutes County Circuit Court judge ruled last month the case must be settled out of court.

In large part because of the sewer plant problems, the city of Bend has started using alternatives to a traditional low-bid process. Instead, the city increasingly is awarding contracts based on prior work or experience.

— Reporter: 541-633-2160, jshumway@bendbulletin.com

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