East Grand Forks voted to move ahead with a $4.4 million wastewater pond decommissioning project Tuesday, ending a bidding process that drew criticism from some City Council members and required a legal opinion from the city attorney to determine public bidding laws were followed.

The City Council voted 6-1, to award the bid to Burski Excavating, an Illinois-based contractor, over East Grand Forks company R.J. Zavoral and Sons Inc. City Council member Henry Tweten voted against the bid and Marc DeMers abstained.

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The bidding process had been brought into question after Dan Zavoral told the council his company had a different interpretation of Minnesota Pollution Control Agency rules when putting together its bid and asked for the process to be redone at an Oct. 24 work session meeting. Council members asked City Attorney Ronald Galstad to conduct a review of the process to ensure both companies had the same information.

Galstad found the city had not violated Minnesota public bidding law in its process, as did an outside law firm hired by the city to conduct a review.

R.J. Zavoral and Sons submitted a $4.87 million bid, about $460,000 higher than Burski Excavating.On Oct. 24 Ron Zavoral told the council they used a different formula to estimate certain costs based on a understanding the MPCA would have a higher factor of constraints for removing bio-solid materials than it did.

Tweten wanted to rebid the project to ensure that all parties had made their bids based on the same information in a call for fairness.

"I don't think this passes the smell test," Tweten said Tuesday.

Council President Mark Olstad said the process had been fair and told Tweten his remarks were harmful and mischaracterizing the process.

"Nothing was changed when both companies put their bids in," Olstad said. "I don't appreciate it. I don't appreciate the fear factor and lies that you're trying to portray that something happened."

Olstad said he didn't like that Tweten was making it seem as if something had been done intentionally to give one company an advantage. He said the council was right to move ahead with the low bid instead of restarting the process because there was no guarantee the city would get a better price.

City Engineer Steve Emery told the council last month the city had a pre-bid meeting for the project that included a site visit so contractors could understand the scope of the project. Emery told council members both bidders had received the same parameters for the project.

Bids for the pond decommissioning were due Sept. 20. On Sept. 14, one addendum to the project was published to bidders.

Last year, the council awarded R.J. Zavoral and Sons a $5.4 million contract to construct a wastewater interconnect between East Grand Forks and Grand Forks. The pond decommissioning is considered the second leg of the total $10 million project.

Groundbreaking on the interconnect project is scheduled for Nov. 20, according to City Administrator David Murphy.

The total project has come in slightly under its project budget, which Murphy remarked was "somewhat rare."

Funding for both legs of the project was largely provided by the Minnesota bonding bill.