Jan. 7, 2009
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Last reading aloud of contract bids ends decades-old tradition

By Craig Wilkins

3 people at table reading bids

Joel Williams (center) reads bids aloud for the last time during a bid letting held Dec. 19 in the Transportation Building cafeteria. Assisting Williams are Tony Lamusga and Nancy Moberg). Photo by Craig Wilkins

Mn/DOT’s tradition of reading aloud bids from contractors ended quietly as Joel Williams announced the final one Dec.19, 2008.

Williams, contract administration engineer, Innovative Construction and Contracting, first started reading the bids in 2003 when he succeeded Don Orgeman.

Attendance at the bid lettings held on the fourth Friday of each month in the Transportation Building cafeteria had dropped steadily during recent years.

Often a setting full of anxiety, hope and occasional high drama, the lettings became calmer and quieter as the number of bidders in attendance fell.

On the last day of public readings, a handful of contractors came in person to submit bids before the 9:30 a.m. deadline.

Only one contractor, a landscaper, stayed long enough to hear the announcements.

The others, presumably, returned to their offices to view the results on the Mn/DOT Web site where the bids are posted immediately after they’re opened and read.

The Web site is:

Ending the decades-old practice signals wider use of the agency’s electronic bidding process that started in 2001, said Nancy Boeve, contracts and lettings supervisor.

Starting Jan. 1, Mn/DOT began accepting bids in paper form only for those less than $1 million. The previous limit was $5 million.

About 90 percent of bids are submitted electronically, she said.

“The change will allow us to use staff time more productively,” Boeve said.

“Sending bids electronically also saves bidders travel costs and other expenses and enables them to stay in their offices to do last-minute bid calculations instead of traveling to St. Paul,” she said.


At the Capitol

Capitol dome

Legislators returned to the Capitol on Tuesday, Jan. 6, launching the first day of the 2009 session.

Topping the list of tough issues facing the governor, lawmakers and state agencies this year is figuring out how to overcome a nearly $5 billion state shortfall.

As Commissioner Tom Sorel noted in an e-mail sent to Mn/DOT employees in December: “This will be a challenging time. The financial strain will be felt throughout this state and across the nation.”

Highlights at the Capitol for the week ahead include:

  • The commissioner will attend a confirmation hearing with the Senate Transportation Committee on Thursday, Jan. 8. The committee then forwards its recommendation to the full Senate for approval.
  • Gov. Tim Pawlenty will deliver the annual State of the State address on Thursday, Jan. 15, at noon, from the Minnesota House Chamber at the state Capitol.
  • Mn/DOT will present a departmental overview to the House Transportation Committee on Thursday, Jan. 15.

Cable channel to air documentary of bridge collapse

The National Geographic Channel will air a documentary about the Interstate 35W bridge collapse on Thursday, Jan. 15.

Representatives from Mn/DOT, the Federal Highway Administration and other agencies participated in the making of “Twin City Bridge: After the Collapse,” which will be broadcast at 7 p.m. locally.

The I-35W bridge in Minneapolis fell into the Mississippi River on Aug. 1, 2007. In November 2008, the National Transportation Safety Board cited a 40-year-old error in the original design of the bridge’s gusset plates, as well as a number of other factors, as the probable cause of the collapse.


On the job: Jessica Etukudo combines academic fundamentals with practical experience

By Della Ljungkull

2 women discussing work

Student worker Jessica Etukudo (right) consults with her supervisor, Jolene Forman, Office of Human Resources. Photo by Della Ljungkull

Jessica Etukudo, student worker/paraprofessional senior, brings talent, enthusiasm and hard work to her position in the Office of Human Resources.

Etukudo, a senior at the University of Minnesota, is double majoring in Business Marketing and Human Resource Development with a minor in African American Studies.

After talking to a relative who was in Mn/DOT’s Seeds program during its early stages, Etukudo applied to the program and began in May 2008.

While working at Mn/DOT she has been able to cultivate the fundamentals she’s acquired through the university and combine them with those she’s gained on the job.

What do you do on a daily basis?

Every day it’s different. Sometimes we are planning events, sometimes setting up interviews or doing paper work for new hires, working on retention efforts or staffing career fairs.

What are the most interesting things that you've done so far?

The Seeds Day event was very interesting. It was a lot of work, but worth all our efforts. The Strategic Vision project was also interesting and a learning experience.

How was it working on the Strategic Vision?

Working on the Strategic Vision was a lot of fun. It was something totally new to me so I learned a lot in the process. It was an honor that the commissioner would adopt our Strategic Vision as we never anticipated that happening.                                                    

What is it like to juggle school and work?

It can be hard at times! It doesn't ever seem like there are enough hours in the day. The one good thing I love about the group of people I work with is that they are very understanding about school and are flexible, which helps me and the other students in our office out a lot.

The most important thing I've learned about juggling work and school over the years is prioritizing and utilizing all of your time.

Do you or a co-worker have an interesting job to share with readers? Click here to send us your ideas, and we’ll contact you for more information.

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Employees dig a little deeper to help the needy during the holidays

By Craig Wilkins

Woman making mitten

Nicki Danielson-Bartelt, Bridge Office, cuts patterns to make mittens from donated sweaters. She and several co-workers made dozens of mitten pairs for needy families. Photo by Nancy Levine

Nicole Danielson-Bartelt and coworkers in the Bridge Office traced patterns on donated wool sweaters, cut them out and then sewed them into dozens of warm mitten pairs.

The office also collected cash and food donations as part of its effort to help needy families during the holidays.

Elsewhere around the state employees raised funds for a hospice, collected toys for needy children and donated food and cash to support food shelves.

There was an abundance of giving during a time of economic hardships for many Minnesotans.

A silent auction held by the Office of Construction and Innovative Contracting, for example, raised more than $2,700 for Second Harvest, a food shelf cooperative in the Twin Cities metro area.

Funds came from the sale of auction items, cash donations and a $1,200 grant from the Hiway Federal Credit Union.

Sue Stein, auction co-chair, said new items this year included lunches with Commissioner Tom Sorel and Deputy Commissioner Khani Sahebjam, which raised $100 for the cause.

“They brought a good price,” she said.

Greater Minnesota districts

Tim Lundorff, Bemidji Construction Office, gets ready to enjoy a hearty lunch during District 2's holiday potluck and silent auction fundraiser. Photo by Karen Bedeau

In Bemidji, AFSCME Local 637 members held a potluck lunch and a silent auction that raised $565 for a homeless shelter and food shelf.

Employees at Detroit Lakes raised $1,240 from raffle proceeds for a regional hospice program. The district has supported the hospice since 1995. Cash gifts to the program now total $11,200.

Rochester District employees contributed $600 in cash and “filled a barrel that overflowed with gifts” to support Toys for Tots, said Paul Bissen, drive coordinator.

The Willmar District’s Hiwayan Club collected $60 in cash and more than 100 pounds of food for the Willmar Area Food Shelf.

In District 3, employees at the Baxter headquarters gave $365 in cash and brought enough toys to fill four cartons of toys to support the Toys for Kids campaign.

At St. Cloud, employees leveraged enthusiasm from their first cash and toy drive in 2007 to provide more than 100 gifts and nearly $1,600 in cash to Catholic Charities and the Marine Toys for Tots campaign in 2008.

Andie Andrusko, a campaign organizer, said toy donations dropped, but cash from gifts and a raffle increased from 2007.

“Raffle donations and cash gifts just snowballed the week before our raffle drawing and our employee lunch,” she said.

“We have a lot of good-hearted, generous people here who know there are more people in need than ever when the economic going gets tough,” she said.

Andrusko, a customer service specialist, said a storm hit on the day the Hiwayan Club’s all-employee holiday lunch was held, resulting in split shifts for plow crews.

“Even that worked out well because more crews from the truck stations came in,” she said. “We fed the morning shift when they finished and the afternoon shift before they went out. The storm helped bring in even more district people to share a meal and some holiday cheer.”

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