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Blue Earth not happy with $1 million plan

By Staff | Mar 23, 2014

Sticker shock.

That is what the Blue Earth City Council experienced at their meeting last Monday night.

Last year the council authorized replacing the city Public Works Department shop building with a whole new structure. They felt the cost of a new building would be between $400,000 and $600,000.

They also said OK to hiring an architect to draw up the plans. That cost was estimated to be $55,000.

Monday night Public Works supervisor Jamison Holland gave a report on the preliminary architectural drawings and cost estimates.

The plans include replacing the current 50 by 80 foot building with one that is 50 by 100. Also included is remodeling the former liquor store building, constructing a wash bay in a current storage building and paving the parking lot between all the buildings.

Total estimated price tag for all this work – $1.1 million.

“This is a long ways from our $600,000 maximum amount,” Holland told the council. “This is over a million dollars. The plan was to try and keep on budget.”

Holland told the council his recommendation was to break the contract with the architect, CSB Squared, and move on with just a ‘design build’ project. That is where a contractor designs and builds a regular building out of lumber, steel or concrete.

“That is what we did with the fitness center project,” Holland says. “It was designed and built without an architect.”

The council had several other ideas, however, and debated terminating the contract.

“I think we should give him a chance to come up with another plan, within our budget,” councilman Glenn Gaylord said. “We can talk to him about the size of the project.”

Councilman John Huisman agreed.

“We need to give him another chance to redo the plans and get them more in line with our budget,” he said. “This is $450,000 over our budget, and it needs to be cut back.”

Holland questioned if that was possible and suggested contacting Blue Earth Builders and Ankeny Builders to see if a design build structure would work and what it would cost.

However, the council decided to first give the architect another chance.

The plan presented Monday night breaks down like this.

The new shop building comes in with an estimated cost of $672,464.

Remodeling the outside of the old liquor store building is $102,951. Remodeling the inside is $264,308.

Putting the wash bay into the current storage building is $78,783.

And, paving the parking area between all three buildings is $82,005.

“I think all these costs are too high,” Holland told the council, and several agreed that the costs for the old liquor store building remodeling, at nearly $400,000, was way too much.

Holland pointed out the architect hired a different firm to figure the costs.

“Maybe they are using Mankato prices, and not checking with our local contractors,” one councilman remarked.

Bailey said the reason for going with an architect was to get through the bid and construction process, as well as the design. Plus, the thought was the city would gain knowledge of OSHA requirements for the building which other communities had found necessary and required for operations.

When questioned by council members, Holland said CSB Squared, a Wisconsin firm, had an excellent reputation and was involved in many other public works buildings including the one being built in Jackson.

Holland and Bailey both also said they had no idea how much the architect fee would be if the contract was broken right now.

“We don’t know how much he has into the project,” Holland says. “But these are just preliminary drawings and estimates and not actual architectural designs.”