On Thursday, county custodian Terry Schultz cut grass next to the courthouse while the last remnants of the recent snowfall melted on the courthouse lawn. The Fillmore County Board of Commissioners have accepted bids for the courthouse addition and remodelling project, with work expected to start sometime around May 1.
"I was 28 years old when I started this project, and look at me now," joked David Kane, President of Kane and Johnson Architects, Inc. in Rochester, as his team was finally given the green light on the project to remodel the courthouse.
Yet, no one leaped from their chairs, no confetti fell from the ceiling, and no corks were heard popping off champagne bottles as the vote to proceed with the project passed four to one, with Chairman Marc Prestby expressing his concerns of adding to the taxpayers’ burden, one last time. The awarded contracts totaled $3,393, 934.
The many months spent getting to Tuesday’s decision have been laced with concerns about courthouse needs, public opinion, and state budget cuts.
More than 77 bidders put pen to paper in an effort to get a piece of the action. Morem Electric of Harmony was the only local contractor awarded a bid. Construction Manager Dean Sand of Construction Analysis, and Management, Inc. (CAM), explained the 26 bidding categories and the lowest bids. He noted that each bid is stringently reviewed, looking for reliability, quality, references, and any concerns within each area. In addition to the base categories, there were also 14 alternative plans to consider, the most costly being a basement below the County Attorney’s office, hearing and holding areas, which carried a price tag of $144,274. Prestby was opposed to adding this alternate plan as he felt the current basement wasn’t being used enough. Commissioner Chuck Amunrud noted that the proposed basement wouldn’t include windows and felt the courthouse didn’t need additional storage space. This alternate failed, as did nine others. The board made short work of adding any frills to the package. On the humorous side, there were two proposed alternates that would have saved the county money up front, but would have failed miserably in the long run. Chairman Prestby was the only commissioner to vote "yes", which brought laughter from his colleagues as he made a final stab at squashing the project.
The remodeling budget will also include a 10% contingency, $80,000 for courtroom equipment and furnishings, asbestos removal at a projected cost of $180,000, and additional furnishings, moving expenses, and architects’ fees of $120,000.
Dave Johnson was introduced to the board as the Project Coordinator, the "eyes and ears" of the project for the next 18 months. He will be working through CAM’s office.
Commissioner Duane Bakke raised the question of what would happen if the costs suddenly veer off from the budget. He wasn’t looking for the county to absorb the additional costs. Kane explained that all work would stop as himself, Sand and other area related individuals would seek cost projections, review contract terms to see if something had been missed and present its findings to the board. It takes three signatures to make a job change order. Commissioner Randy Dahl noted that there should be fewer risks involved in this project, as there hasn’t been any major remodeling. This will cut down on surprises lurking within the walls.
"I don’t think it’s insurmountable, even with the state’s cuts," felt Commissioner Dahl in regard to the project’s budget. Bakke said that in spite of the state’s problems, others have pointed out that if the need is there, especially considering the present mechanical and electrical concerns of the existing structure, that we should move ahead on the remodeling. The total cost still rests uneasily with Bakke, though.
Amunrud noted that though he had come on board late in the process with last fall’s election, he was comfortable with the bonding issue. The commissioner would like to see a comfortable work environment for employees.
Commissioner Helen Bicknese felt the county needed to move forward in light of the potential mechanical problems of the courthouse. There was also the ongoing concern of better security in the courtroom with which the project’s plans have addressed.
Dean Sand said the next step in getting construction going is sending out letters of intent to contractors. He sees work starting the first week of May. He offered the board a chance at a groundbreaking ceremony. Nothing has been decided.
Under "Other Business" in the April 7 issue of the Journal, in regard to advertising for the one-year Assistant County Attorney position, it was stated that there was a glitch in the advertising schedule. This was incorrect. There was no problem.
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