Bids for the building will be received July 11 by David Lias The Vermillion City Council is waiting � perhaps with their fingers crossed � for the scheduled bid opening of the city's new fire hall in mid-July.
Aldermen decided June 5 to go ahead with attempts to construct the building, even though estimates of its total price put it beyond the $1 million originally set aside for the project.
Architect Bob Lee of RML Architects, Sioux City, IA, told the city council that the design work was complete.
"As you recall, we were authorized in April to resume the design and planning of the facility, and we now have our work completed.
"We are in the process of going through our document checking procedure," he added, stating that the documents would be duplicated and issued to contractors this week. "I would like to request that you authorize us to take bids for the facility in July."
Bids due July 11
The bids will be received July 11, and will be analyzed and ready to be studied by the city council at its July 17 meeting.
Lee reminded the council of factors that were driving up the cost of the project. Last spring, it was discovered that the site of the new fire hall had soil problems that would require changes in the foundation design.
"We also learned, in reviewing the soil information, that the substrate for the paving soil is the same way so we will have to increase the thickness of
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the paving slab," he said.
Lee estimated last fall that the fire hall would cost $1,169,000.
"To that, we will be adding approximately $70,000," he said, to pay for the needed foundation and extra paving. "That brings the estimated cost to $1,239,000."
Alternates � items that can be trimmed or changed from the building's design should it prove to be too costly � will be incorporated in the bidding process.
"My estimate is that if we were to accept everything that we have written up as an alternate, we probably would be able to save in the neighborhood of $100,000," Lee said.
Lee was questioned about the heating source for the building, and whether electric or geothermal heat sources were explored. He responded that his staff's review of the building site design and electric rates led it to favor gas heat for the building.
"My recollection is that the annual operating cost for the electric system was 180 percent that of gas," Lee said, "using the rates that we had at that time. If gas has gone up (in price) that figure is different, but it probably is not that great. This is a considerable difference."
Questions about design
Alderman Joe Grause noted that three different people on the council had asked for construction prices on different types of buildings.
"Apparently, the people we represent don't mean anything to the council or anybody else, because we have never seen anything but just this one plan," he said. "That kind of irritates me. We're supposed to be representing people here, people have asked to see this, and we get nothing but the same building every time."
"I don't think that's Mr. Lee's problem," Mayor William Radigan said. "He's just the architect who designed it. If you have that question, you probably should have asked someone on the city's staff. I particularly remember that he stated he would design a block, brick and mortar type of building. It was his opinion that the metal type of buildings were not satisfactory, and the savings were not large. He was not given any further instructions after that."
Grause said his own research indicates that a new fire station housed in a metal building may cost only $600,000, roughly half of the estimated price tag of the brick and mortar design.
Radigan noted that the city council has been discussing the fire hall issue for the past five years. The conclusion that a brick and mortar building should be constructed came about, he said, because of the advice received from the architect.
"He was not instructed to design a metal building," Radigan said. "I don't think it's fair to him to get all over him because he doesn't have a metal building design here."
"I've only been on the council for a year, but ever since I've been on, three of us have been asking and asking for prices of metal buildings and we never get anywhere," Grause said.
Radigan said he's convinced that the only way to get the fire hall project started is to seek bids. The action is needed, he said, for the city to receive a firm figure on the building's cost.
Grant request refused again
"I am concerned about the financing," Alderman Frank Slagle said. "I remain concerned about doing a major building project in addition to all the other expenses that we have before we've completed the budgeting process to know where we're at for this coming year."
Earlier in the year, the city applied for a $200,000 CDBG block grant from the Governor's Office of Economic Development (GOED). The application was refused.
This spring, however, the council gave Lee the go-ahead to proceed with planning the facility at the same time that the GOED was reconsidering the city's request for grant funds.
Radigan received a letter May 22 from Steve Harding, special projects coordinator of the CDBG program, informing him that the request for funding once more was not approved.
"Your fire hall is substantially larger and has more features than those typically funded using CDBG funds," Harding wrote. "By reducing the size of your project, you could complete the building for the amount of funds you have in place and still have a functional facility."
Response to GOED
City Manager Jeff Pederson, in a memo to council members, stated that Harding's statement "in my opinion, was totally lacking in substantive understanding of our needs and rather reflected nothing more than a bias against the granting of funds for our project."
He also noted in his memo it became clear during the application process that "anything beyond a few vehicle bays and a community meeting room was beyond what the state would support."
Pederson informed aldermen that an update of the second penny sales tax funding plan "determined that there will be approximately $280,000 in unprogrammed funds available to replace the grant money that did not materialize."
Slagle said he's talked to a lot of people, and a lot of people have talked to him about this issue. "They're concerned less about whether or not we need a fire station, and a lot about the cost of the fire station," he said.
"Let's get some bids and let's get some actual costs on what this facility might cost," Alderman Gary Wright said. "Nothing is written tonight that says we have to accept those bids on whatever date they're submitted to us."
Citizens have final word
Grause said he was concerned that citizens of Vermillion would be forced to pay for a project they really don't want.
"Whether it's what the people of the city want, the further you push it, the faster it's going to get pushed through."
Radigan reminded Grause that options exist to make sure the citizens make the final decision on certain issues of government.
"They (citizens) can always bring it to a vote. If they want it or not � that's their choice.," Radigan said. "This is an action that will be subject to a vote of the people, and if they don't want it, all they will have to do is circulate a petition, file it and it has to go to a vote."
Slagle noted that it may have been better if the city council would have stopped progress on the planning of the fire station until it knew for sure how much money it would have to spend on the project.
"I can see the wheels moving to the point where this thing is going to get pushed through without considering the financial costs of what we can afford based upon our mayor's own assessment that this will be one of the most difficult budget years that we have experienced," he said.