Snake River School Board approves network and sewer contracts

THOMAS, March 13, 2019 – The Snake River School Board approved the bids for a new wide-area network (WAN) and the new sewer line for the district. Other items discussed at the meeting were the introduction of high school students who attended Idaho All-State, an introduction to the Virtual Reality Lab, and the improving progress in math and reading for the district’s elementary school students.

WAN bid award

Steve Schellenberg, technology director for the district, presented the bid information on the five-year WAN bids submitted to the district. The previous five-year WAN contract was through CableOne and had a capacity of 100 Mg.

Board chairman Martin questioned why the contract was for five years. Superintendent David Kerns responded that it was a customary contract period especially since the contractor had to make physical installation of equipment (i.e., a fiber optic cable and other wiring).

The board voted to give the contract to the low bidder, TechHut, who quoted $2,800 per month for a 100 gig connection plus the cost of installing a new fiber optic cable. That cost is $42,000 after funding subsidies and discounts are applied. Schellenberg was tentatively sure could be amortized over four years through E-Rate.

In addition, Schellenberg stated that: “By going through E-Rate (a national organization which provides subsidized loans for public educational institutions), there will be a 70 percent discount on the cable installation. Then the state kicks in a 10 percent subsidy. Then E-Rate kicks in 10 percent more, so the district ends up paying around 10 percent.”

The bids were reviewed by a four-person committee from the district. The bid from the current contractor, CableOne, was $24,800 per month. This bid was this high despite the fact that it did not include the installation of a cable, since they already owned the current fiber optic network.

The second-lowest bidder was a firm called Direct Communications at $7160 per month.

Martin remarked over the extreme range in price quotes. Kerns replied: “This gives you an idea of the mark-ups involved.”

Sewer bid Award

Mitch Greer of Rocky Mountain Engineering and Surveying (RMES) presented the bid evaluation and his firm’s recommendation for the sewer work. RMES is a civil engineering firm out of Pocatello and was a contractor working for the district for the technical review of the sewer bids.

“I was worried when I walked in to receive the bids (last week),” Greer said. “There were 30 firms who asked for the project paperwork (in order to bid on the work). There were three contractors who submitted bids – but it worked out.”

Greer explained the three beds were: $3 million from local contractor Mickelsen, at a figure under $1.5 million from local firm Taylor, and just above $1.4 million from Edstrom Construction out of Rexberg.

“There was only $128,000 difference between the first and second bid,” Greer stated. The RMES recommendation was for the district to award the contract to Edstrom.

“We (RMES) have worked with Edstrom before and they are a reliable contractor,” Greer added. “We recommend that you have an agreement (to hook up into their sewer system) in place with either the City (of Blackfoot) or Rockford (Sewer District) before construction starts.”

Martin signed the acceptance of the bid from Edstrom on behalf of the district. The next steps, as Greer explained, is for Edstrom to obtain all the requisite permits to do the sewer installation from agencies like the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality; and also to post the required construction bond, which is a normal practice for high-cost large-scale projects for public entities.

School board chairman Bill Martin signs to approve the bid for the district's sewer project (left) with Superintendent David Kerns (right) looks on.
School board chairman Bill Martin signs to approve the bid for the district’s sewer project (left) with Superintendent David Kerns (right) looks on.

When permitting and bonding is complete, then the district can finalize and sign the contract so work can begin. The optimum start date for construction in April 1 in order for the sewer installation to be complete before the 2019-2020 school year begins.

The board voted to hold a special meeting on April 1 at 5:30 p.m. at the district office to approve the sewer contract with Edstrom Construction.

“It has been three years of agony,” Martin said, referring to the long and bumpy road the district has traveled in trying to solve its sewer problem. “We’ve looked at everything and this finally gives us a way forward.”

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