Fiery debate: by David Lias After two failed attempts, the Vermillion City Council reached an agreement late Monday to award bids for the construction of a new fire/ambulance facility to Tellinghuisen, Inc. of Willow Lake.
It took an affirmative vote by Mayor William Radigan to break a four-aye, four-nay vote of the council on a motion by Alderman Roger Kozak that ultimately will allow the general contractor to begin the building's construction.
Aldermen had difficulty settling on the best procedure to grant the bids and, in fact, some expressed concerns that the project had grown too big and too expensive for Vermillion's needs.
Tellinghuisen's low bid for the building project totaled approximately $1,204,000. The city was informed in mid-July that it was awarded a $125,000 Community Development Block Grant by the Governor's Office of Economic Development in Pierre to help fund the project.
City Manager Jeff Pederson informed the council that the only way it could safely utilize those CDBG funds, however, would be to delay construction on some of the building's components, and re-bid them next year, using the CDBG as payment.
"We were awarded the block grant, and in order to accept the block grant, you would have to essentially re-bid the entire project," Pederson said. He reminded the council that 10 bids had been received for the council, with several of the lowest bids being very favorable.
"The notion came up last Friday of the possibility of how you might take advantage of the favorable position that you have while still taking advantage of the block grant," Pederson said. He noted that if the building project was re-bid entirely, there was a risk that the second bid would be higher than the first and possibly could eat up all or even more than the amount of the CDBG funds.
"So working with the architect, Bob Lee, we came up with a list of items that could be removed from the contract, separated out, and made available
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for re-bid using Community Development Block Grant funds," Pederson said.
The council agreed to trim the building's exterior work from the bid awarded to Tellinghuisen Monday.
City Finance Officer Mike Carlson said the action eliminates the building's south parking lot, northwest parking lot, flag pole and base, truck apron and EMT parking, all sidewalk, and curb cuts and entrance drives at other parking areas.
Exterior entrance pads at the building will be left intact. This action reduces the base bid of the project by $92,287 to a total of $1,111,713.
A motion by Alderman Roger Kozak to delay construction of three items in the building's interior for additional cost savings was initially rejected by the council.
Finance Officer Mike Carlson noted that $1,122,000 was budgeted for the building. Engineering costs bring the total cost of the building to nearly $1,155,000, which exceeds the budgeted amount for the project by approximately $33,000.
"I hear everything being said about piecemealing this project, and I know that's never desirable, but I also hear a lot out there about (the public) mood for this project," Kozak said. "No one says to not build a fire hall facility, but I have to tell you when you talk about sleeping rooms, training rooms, meeting rooms, they draw the line and they wonder if this has grown too much."
Kozak said he was very reluctant to go over budget with the fire hall/ambulance facility project.
"I think it's a risk even at budget," he said. "If you go over budget, you may just encourage more (public) reaction."
Kozak urged the council to approve the low bid of $1,204,000, include the exterior deductions of $92,287, and also trim carpeting and finishing of the training room and sleeping room in the amount of $27,900.
"I believe that leaves (us short) approximately $3,000, for which I would recommend we use second penny sales tax funds," Kozak said.
Kozak's motion failed the first time it was introduced. But when other, more expensive attempts to fund the building project failed to garner enough votes, and at one time a motion to reject all bids was even introduced, Kozak again offered his motion and it was accepted by a 5-4 vote.
"We had budgeted $1,122,000," Carlson said after the meeting. "If you take that base bid minus those items that were removed, the total comes to $1,083,813."
He said contracts will now be drawn up, and the general contractor will have to meet certain requirements, such as obtaining performance bonds and insurance stating he will perform on the contract.
"Then usually they line up a pre-construction meeting with the contractors, the architect and the city," Carlson said.
Start of the construction may also depend on the contractor's work load. "Once he gets a signed contract, he's got to get hold of the subcontractors that he's going to have do the concrete work and the grading and dirt work, and get them lined up to find out when they are ready to start.
"The idea was to get it (the building) built so they could get it enclosed before winter to work on it during this winter and have it completed next spring," he added.
The new fire/ambulance facility will be constructed just south of The Prairie, on the corner of Duke and Dakota Streets. The structure's bays will be located so that fire trucks can leave the building and pull out on Dakota Street.