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Can't get no satisfaction

Sun, Sep 24th, 2000
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Monday, September 25, 2000

You've heard of disgruntled customers withholding payment until a service is rendered to their satisfaction. Well, the county is doing just that. Sort of!

The County Board decided on Tuesday to make only a partial payment to Nelson Construction of Caledonia, contractors on the new county office building. TSP Architects of Rochester, had requested that the county pay the contractor $82,000 for work completed on the building. This would have left a final retainage on the project of $10,466.

But the board, citing several fix-it items that had yet to be repaired, agreed to pay only $70,000 of the bill, thus increasing the retainage on the project to over $20,000.

At the heart of the problem is a list of concerns the county sent in a letter to the architects in August:

• Floor in men's bathroom in the upper level is cracked.
• Mismatched tiles in the corridors.
• Mismatched grouting between the tiles in corridors.
• Leaking eave troughs.
• Noise from air handler located immediately north of the building.
• No-fault plug at counter in conference room does not work.
• No ceiling tile in the hallway downstairs by vending machines.
• A small area in the parking lot has settled.
• The door to room 252 hits the top of the frame.
• Excessive amounts of water and debris washes down in the front of the building.

What troubles the commissioners is that, while they know some of the work has been done, such as the caulking of eaves, they are not aware that the majority of the problems have been fixed.

"What is our obligation?" Commissioner Donald Boyum asked.

"They (architects) are saying all the work is done," County Attorney Matt Opat responded. "Now, you have to decide whether it is satisfactory or not."

Opat went on to say that if the $10,000 that was being kept back in retainage was enough to cover the work yet to be done, then the board should proceed with payment.

Commissioner Duane Bakke worried that the problem may be in the design and not the work. Bakke questioned whether the runoff problems in front of the building were even part of the original project design or not.

"I am not sure we have a legal ground to stand on," Bakke said. "It looks like most of the work has been done to the specs that were agreed to."

Believing that the problem may be with the architectural specifications and not the contractor, Bakke recommended paying $70,000 of the $82,000.

Opat cautioned that the contractors need to be told why we're not paying the full amount.

"No satisfaction on the items listed in the letter," Bakke responded.

The board voted three to one, with Commissioner Boyum opposed, to pay the $70,000 to Nelson Construction. Commissioner Gary Peterson was absent from the meeting.

Employee Retainage

The board accepted the resignation of another Engineering Technician at the Highway Department and authorized County Engineer Steven Voigt to advertise for a replacement. The department is short three Engineering Technicians and one supervisor, all of whom have left Fillmore County for higher paying positions with other organizations, including MnDOT.

According to Voigt, a supervisor who recently left the county is making $3 more per hour with MnDOT and has less responsibility than they did at the Highway Department.

"Either we can hire them and train them in and watch them go, and hire someone else, or we can compensate them more and try to keep them," Voigt responded. "But there is no guarantee that will work either."

Water Plan. The board accepted the final draft of the Fillmore County Comprehensive Local Water Management Plan, which will now be forwarded to the Bureau of Water and Soil Resources. The new plan will be implemented effective January 1, 2001 and will serve the county through 2005.

Halloween Tour. If you see five people dressed up ghoulishly like county commissioners driving the highways and byways of Fillmore County on Halloween don't panic, it is probably none other than our beloved county board out on their fall road tour. October 31 was chosen for the tour because it is the fifth Tuesday of the month, a day the board usually does not meet.

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