Council approves utility work on Washington County project

City engineer: Low bidder’s cost for work higher than other proposals

OAK PARK HEIGHTS — The Oak Park Heights City Council Wednesday unanimously, but somewhat reluctantly, approved its utility portion of a Washington County project on two county roads adjacent to the county Government Center.

Hardrives Inc. was awarded a $2.497 million contract Tuesday by the county Board of Commissioners to upgrade Oxboro Avenue and 62nd Street in Oak Park Heights and Stillwater and build a new permanent parking lot to replace a temporary lot constructed during Government Center remodeling. The work is expected to improve both vehicle and pedestrian flow in the area.

As part of the work, that includes road repaving, storm water infrastructure, curb rehab, sidewalks and trails, is Oak Park Heights installing new utility lines during the road work.

But council members learned Wednesday their utility work will cost $350,000 as part of Hardrives’  bid, more than the city engineer’s estimate.

City Administrator Eric Johnson and City Engineer Chris Long both said that although other contractors bidding on the work had lower costs for the city’s utility work, Hardrives’ low bid was selected by the county. The city’s only recourse was not cooperating with the county and bidding the utility work itself.

“The way this was staged, we opted not to go that route,” Johnson said. “This is what it is.”

Johnson added that it is difficult for city officials to predict bids since they don’t know how companies are calculating costs on all aspects of the projects.

“In this process, the utility element came out higher. At this point, you don’t have much of an option,” he said.

“I’m having a hard time swallowing that difference in price,” said Councilman Mark Swenson in response to Long mentioning lower utility costs offered in other bids.

Long said the city plans to install new water lines next to old lines in the streets and anticipates having only one water shutdown affecting the Government Center. He added that those plans might have affected how companies developed their bids.
“None of it adds up. This is a lose-lose for the city,” Swenson said.

Long disagreed.

“Mark, I truly believe that if you bid this separately, it would be higher,” he said.
County officials said the project begins next month and is expected to be finished in October. Project updates can be found at

Contact Erik Sandin at