The Vermillion City Council plans to open bids Jan. 19, 2012, for the planned renovation and addition to the Vermillion City Library.
City leaders will be crossing their fingers as the bids are being unsealed, hoping the architectural firm for the project – Architecture Incorporated of Sioux Falls – is overestimating the project's total cost.
The firm estimates the 11,000 square foot addition to the present building and remodeling of the existing structure could cost nearly $2.7 million.
Bids of that amount would exceed the funding sources available to the city for the project by approximately $320,000.
"We're just wrapping up the design of the addition and the remodeling of the Vermillion Public Library," Liz Squyer, principal architect, told the Vermillion City Council at its Dec. 5 meeting. "We're looking at an addition to the north, which is about 6,100 square feet, and about a 780 square foot addition to the south, and complete renovation of the interior of the library.
"Our cost estimate to date is $2.7 million. That is what we would expect the construction costs to be, or, in other words, what the cost of the bids would be when the bids are opened," she said.
Architects have designed the new addition to the library to complement the existing Carnegie Library building located next door to the north.
"The design incorporates a gable-roofed entry off of the west. We're looking at matching the brick, which is an orange-colored blend which we see around the library, and then accenting that with some quartzite colors, again of brick, but which relate to the historic nature of the Carnegie Library," Squyer said.
The design work by Architecture Incorporated is complete. Those plans were unanimously approved by the city council Dec. 5. Aldermen also agreed to set the bid opening date for Jan. 19.
"The construction schedule is such that we would allow enough lead time so that if a contractor wished to start the project in April after the frost is out of the ground and avoid temporary heating measures, the lead time is long enough to allow that," Squyer said. "But if a contractor did wish get going this winter right away in January, that would be allowed, too."
Architects estimate that the project will take approximately a year to complete.
The library expansion has been on the city's "wish list" of projects to complete for years now, and was given new life last summer when a Vermillion citizen who wished to remain anonymous until work was complete donated $800,000 toward completion of the project.
The funds came from Edith Siegrist, who was educated in a one-room schoolhouse and worked as clerk and an elementary school teacher before eventually becoming a renowned librarian in South Dakota.
She received her masters of library science and graduated with high honors from the University of Denver. After working for six years as a school librarian in Lansing, MI, she began a 24-year career as librarian science professor at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion.
Last July, two weeks after finalizing arrangements for her significant financial donation toward the city library expansion, Siegrist, 86, died in Vermillion Sanford Hospital.
Her last act breathed new life into the project, prompting community leaders to forge ahead despite the possible funding challenges that may still remain.
"It's pretty exciting for us to get to this point, and I thank the board for their support, to the council for their support, and we're excited about this and are ready to go forward," Carl Gutzman, vice chairman of the library's board of trustees, told the city council. "We think it's a good thing for the city and I hope you agree with that."
"I've been on the library board for three or four years. I've worked there before when I was the children's librarian," said Fern Kaufman. "I really, thoroughly enjoy the library, and I know many people in this community do. It's a very necessary part of our community."
"I have been talking to you singularly and severally about this for a long time, and this is really important," Jon Flanagin, president of the library board, said to aldermen at the Dec. 5 city council meeting. "This is something that you need to do for the community, and I'm delighted that we are to this point, and I'm delighted that we are going to go ahead with this."
Hoping for favorable bids
"At this point – and I understand what the estimated cost is and that what the actual bids are going to come back as, we don't know," Alderman Tom Davies said. "If the actual bids come back at what the budgeted construction costs are, do we have enough funding set aside in order to pay for this?"
"If the architectural firm is right, and I hope that they're not, their cost estimates exceed what we have right now," replied City Manager John Prescott. "The council appropriated $1.4 million in second penny money, the gift from Edith Siegrist came in at just over $800,000, and we have a Community Development Block Grant that, after the administrative costs are paid to SECOG, nets us $192,500.
"If you take the construction project budget cost minus those dollars, you've got about a $320,000 gap," he said. "You have to add on some testing and some architectural fees, and I've not included in there the furnishings because the Library Foundation Board and friends, through the work that they are doing, are raising funds for that aspect of it."
Additional funds available to the city include certificates of deposit pledged to the city by the library board totaling approximately $120,000.
"You work those numbers together, and you're looking at an amount between $300,000 to $400,000 that there is a little bit of a shortfall," Prescott said. "We're hoping that we get a couple of favorable things – one is a favorable construction bid."
Some items have been identified as possible bid alternates, in other words, items that could be taken cut from the project's current design. They include exterior piers, skylights and a circulation desk.
At best, removing those items from the project's drawing board would save approximately $65,000.
"We continue to look for ways to reduce the cost of this project," Prescott said. "Our other (city) departments have been a great help; the street guys helped clear the area just north of the building to remove some of those costs from the project."
The city water department will also make any needed alterations to waterlines leading to the building.
"We're looking for everything we can. That way, we can allow the contractor to really focus on building the building," Prescott said.
Other action the city could take, should the possibility of a funding shortfall become reality, is to tap into additional city revenue in the next budget year.
"The way this project is set up, we're looking at construction starting in the 2012 budget year. As a council, you would have the opportunity when you are looking at the 2013 budget – if you wanted to apply some additional second penny funds if we are indeed short and the bids come in at the architect's estimate or higher – to come back to funding that through the second penny," Prescott told the aldermen.
"In most of our projects, the architects miss the high bid, and we're hopeful that will be the case this time," he said.
According to construction documents prepared by Architecture Incorporated, the work will be divided into five phases, beginning with the construction of the library's north and south additions. That work will begin most likely next April.
Once new mechanical equipment is in operation, phase two of the work will likely begin in October 2012. This will involve removing equipment from the existing mechanical room and remodeling that space into restrooms. Existing condensing units also will be replaced with a new chiller.
The third phase of work, estimated to begin in November 2012, will involve moving the library operations into the new addition. Staff likely will consider leaving the current workroom operational and building an interior "tunnel" from the existing work area to the north addition.
The fourth phase of the project will involve remodeling the existing library, except for the workroom. This portion of the project will likely begin in December 2012.
Phase five has been identified as moving workroom operations into the remodeled area temporarily while the workroom is being remodeled. This work will likely begin in March 2013, and all of the work will wrap up in April 2013.