Saline Approves Design Contract, Resolution for Bonding on WWTP Odor Project

 09/17/2017 - 23:46

The City of Saline two step forwards on a plan officials hope will correct the odor problem at the wastewater treatment plant.

Odors from the facility have long been a problem in the city, particularly in the neighborhoods in the immediate vicinity of the plant, which is located between South Monroe Street and the Saline River. The problem has grown, both in magnitude and frequency in the last three or four years.

At Monday’s meeting Saline City Council voted 7-0 to award a $330,000 design contract to Tetra Tech – the firm that recently completed the $3 million upgrade at the plant. City Council also approved a resolution start the process to bond up $4 million to repair the plant.

It’s expected the project should start in the spring of 2018 and be completed by April 2019.

Council peppered City Superintendent Gary Rubal and Tetra Tech Vice President Brian Rubel with questions before voting on the measure to award the contract to the firm, which has a long history with Saline. Even before the city council approved the contract, Tetra Tech and the city had been working together on the application for a low-interest loan from the state of Michigan.

Rubel reported some good to the city. The city will qualify for $100,000 in loan principal forgiveness instead of $50,000 the city originally believed it might receive.

Despite the unanimous vote, several members of council showed unease with the awarding of the contract to Tetra Tech. Part of the concern was there were no other bids for the project. Councillors are also a little leery because the odor problem became serious about the time Tetra Tech began working on the plant.

“You’ve been working on the sewer treatment plant for the last three and half years. I am very concerned, as you know, that this be resolved as an issue. My concern has been that part of the renovation of this plant contributed to some of the change in the odor,” Councillor Dean Girbach said. “So as we move forward, I want to put Tetra Tech on notice that whatever you do in this design, it needs to solve this problem.”

Rubel replied, “The design will be to the standards of the issue. I promise you that.”

Tetra Tech will subcontract with Webster Environmental Associates for the design of the specific odor control devices and design all other parts of the project, including site work, structural engineering, electrical, mechanical and architectural engineering.

Councillor Janet Dillon asked City Manager Todd Campbell if the city faced any issues for awarding the project with only one bidder.

Campbell said to qualify for the state loan, the city must send out requests for qualifications to firms. Gary Roubal said the city send the RFQs to nine firms.

“You would hope you would get multiple responders, compare responses, and determine which firm would do it. Then you would turn around and negotiate the dollars,” Campbell said. “There is not an issue because we did bid it out to multiple folks. Unfortunately, we got one respondent.”

Dillon asked if the city should be concerned by the lack of responses.

“Why are we not getting multiple people who want to work with the city?” Dillon asked.

Gary Roubal said firms didn’t bother responding because Tetra Tech is considered the state’s expert on wastewater projects.  On top of that, he said, Tetra Tech has an intricate knowledge of the city’s infrastructure and its capacity.

“They responded and said ‘We have to decline because we can not compete with Tetra Tech because of their expertise,’” Roubal said.

With no bids to compare, Dillon asked where the $330,000 design fee came from.

Roubal said the design fee, as a percentage, will be higher than it was to the most recent Tetra Tech projects due to the complexity of the work.

Councillor Christen Mitchell said she questioned the city’s loyalty to Tetra Tech when the odor issue hasn’t improved.

Campbell said that the city has never asked Tetra Tech to solve the odor problem – beyond some measures attempted during phase two of its most recent project.

Roubel agreed.

“I’ve scrubbed our records. We have been retained in the last 20 years for anything to do with odor control,” Roubel said. “So to say it’s gotten worse, or that we haven’t been able to improve it – we haven’t been hired to improve it.”

The city’s water superintendent Bob Scull defended Tetra Tech.

“Tetra Tech has been our go-to engineering firm for the last few years. They designed the water plant. They designed several stages of the wastewater plant. They know more about the plant and the situation. With Webster, I feel it will be a great choice,” Scull said. “I’m on the phone with Tetra Tech every other day asking for free help and they give it to me.”

City Council has expressed the desire for expediency on the wastewater treatment plant project. Scull questioned if re-bidding the project would slow it down.

“So the question is, do we go forward or do we start over again and look for bids. I’m not sure what that would do to the timeline,” Scull said.

When it came to discussion on the vote, Councillor Jack Ceo advocated for a yes vote.

“I believe it’s critical to move forward. Tetra Tech has always been an excellent engineering firm. Because of the timing and the desire of the city to move forward as quickly as possible, it’s essential we approve this,” Ceo said.

Councillor Heidi McClelland said that it’s important the project be done right. If other companies are so impressed with Tetra Tech that they don’t even bid on a job, then Tetra Tech is likely right for the job, she said.


Tran Longmoore
Tran Longmoore is owner of The Saline Post. Email him at or call him at 734-272-6294

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Formerresident's picture

This is a situation where the City staff is not being honest with City Council. They are correct in that Tetra Tech has significant experience with the WWTP. Tetra Tech has been awarded the majority, if not all of the work at the WWTP. Mr. Roubal is not being truthful in his comment about Tetra Tech being the State expert. There are a multitude of firms in this State with equal or even better qualifications related to the oder issue. The City didn't receive any other submittals because the other firms have been through this before with the City and know the staff is going to select Tetra Tech. These submittals costs money to put together and the other firms know they are wasting it in submitting to the City. They know Tetra Tech will be selected. Further, being a resident that at one point lived adjacent to the plant, I don't believe they are be truthful about past attempts to address this oder issue. I am familiar with a number of past attempts, that included Tetra Tech, that failed. If staff wants Tetra Tech, they should be honest about it, but don't lead Council to believe there are no other firms in this State qualified to do the work and be honest that staff and Tetra Tech have attempted and failed to solve this problem in the past. Perhaps an new look from another firm is just what is needed.