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Posted February 22, 2013 | comments Leave a comment

Firm offers to upgrade town wastewater plant

By Alex Bridges

A private firm has offered to upgrade Strasburg's wastewater treatment plant.

Town Manager Judson Rex told members of Town Council's infrastructure committee about an unsolicited proposal from a group seeking to design and build upgrades to the facility. However, state code requires the town keep the details of the proposal under wraps while officials discuss the submittal.

The cost to build the upgrades under the proposal remains confidential. Whether the price comes in less than the cost of the lowest bid submitted in the fall by PC Construction Company was not disclosed. The town received bids from firms seeking to build the upgrades as designed. An engineering company gave council an estimated cost of approximately $20 million. However, the lowest bid came in at more than $31 million for the construction. The bid prompted council to seek ways to reduce the project cost. The town recently advertised requests for information from interested experts and firms that might help bring costs down.

The unidentified group submitted the proposal under Virginia's Public-Private Educational Facilities and Infrastructure Act, also referred to as the PPEA. Under the PPEA, a firm or group can submit an unsolicited proposal to an agency, institution or locality in the commonwealth, according to information provided by the state. Projects should serve the public interest and the entity determines whether the need exists, if the private sector's involvement can prove timely and cost-effective.

Council convened in closed session to discuss the PPEA proposal. The closed session was held for the consideration of the investment of public funds that involves competition or bargaining.

Before entering into closed session Councilman Don Le Vine asked Rex to explain the procedure by which the town might pursue the PPEA proposal. If town leaders and officials decide to move forward with the unsolicited proposal the council would give direction to staff begin the process by accepting the submittal.

The town then needs to advertise for 45 days that Strasburg would accept competing, public-private proposals, according to Rex. After the 45 days the town staff would review the proposals and decide whether or not to enter into a contract with one of the firms that made a submission.

Strasburg also can solicit proposals outside the unsolicited process, Rex said. The town can solicit proposals through the PPEA process, he added.

Le Vine noted that Town Council could pick any of the proposals submitted in the 45-day window.

"This is not competitive in the sense the RFP [request for proposals] was," Le Vine said. "It's competitive, but in a different sense ... we pick who we think is the best value to the town."

Rex concurred.

"Everything is submitted sealed and confidential as it is with the regular bid process," Rex said.

However, after the 45 days the town staff and council can review the proposals, but do not have to accept any of the submissions, Rex explained.

Council later came out of closed session and directed town staff to proceed with the 45-day notice period as outlined in the PPEA guidelines, Rex said by email Friday. The period allows other firms to submit competing proposals. The town plans to advertise the submission period on its website and in the Daily.

Visit www.vita.virginia.gov/itpartnership/default.aspx?id=445#HowDoesPPEAwork for more information.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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