City council members moved to award the bid for the Vermillion Public Library expansion project to Welfl Construction of Yankton.
The decision was made at the council's regular meeting Monday night.
Bids were opened Jan. 19 for the project, which has been in the works for several years.
"We had strong interest going into the bid opening, and we were fortunate to receive eight bids, which tells us what we're going to be paying to have this project done at this point in time," said City Manager John Prescott.
Welfl submitted the lowest base bid of $2,298,000. The architect – Architecture Incorporated of Sioux Falls – estimates the project will cost approximately $2,662,696.
"The architect has gone through their bid, reviewed all the numbers and made sure they added up and that there were not any discrepancies there," Prescott said.
The contract completion date is April 1, 2013.
The bid included three alternates that were not mandatory for the completion of the project – HVAC manufactured by Johnson Controls, the addition of four brick columns to the exterior of the library and five skylights.
Welfl bid $4,900, $28,000 and $44,300, respectively, for these alternates.
If all three alternates were approved, it would leave the project with an approximately $43,000 budget shortfall, Prescott said.
Prescott recommended alternates one and three, stating that most city buildings have HVAC controls, and the five skylights will "add a lot of natural light to the building."
"It will enhance the visual quality of the building and bring in a great deal of light, and just make it a better environment for our library," he said.
The columns, however, would not add to the "critical mission of what the library does," Prescott said.
"Their main function is to complete the architectural design of the outside of the building," he said. "There are two that are part of the entry feature, and there were to be five to the south of there. One of those was removed before we put the bids out. It was basically going to be on the sidewalk."
Prescott did add that he thought the city could support all the alternates, with money for the columns possibly coming from the second penny fund.
Jon Flanagin, chair of the Library Board of Trustees, said including the columns would make the overall building look better.
"One of the columns hides the join between the old library and the library addition, so rather than have an abrupt transition from old building to new construction, this would hide it," he said.
Council member John Grayson spoke in favor of the columns, saying, "There's no doubt that we are being good stewards of taxpayer money, but I also think we owe it to our city to make the most attractive streetscape that we can."
Several council members expressed concerns that including the columns could be a risky budgetary move.
Council President Kent Osborne said that while he could see how the skylights would impact usability and enjoyment of the library, "It's a little harder for me on the columns."
Council Vice-President Howard Willson said he was not against the columns, per se.
"I'm against the fact that it's outside our budget realm," he said. "I don't like to be spending money that's outside our budget realm when I know that we're already going to fight very hard in 2013 just to come up with a balanced budget."
Willson added that additional expenses could be accrued when workers begin to modify the existing building.
"What happens if we tear into that building and, Heaven forbid, we have a $200,000-$250,000 (problem) that's got to be fixed?" he asked. "Then the city council is going to have to take that out of next year's 1 percent, 2 percent sales tax money, and unfortunately, this year that money was a lot shorter than what was budgeted."
The architect estimated the project should have a contingency of approximately $200,000, Prescott said.
"Basically she said … they estimate a 5 percent contingency," he said. "If you do the math on the dollar figure that's presented there, we don't need to have a $200,000 contingency if you want to utilize an architect's number of a 5 percent contingency. So that would bring that $200,000 down to just under $120,000."
Flanagin said if the council decided "that they can't afford $28,500 on a $2.4 million project, I would say fine. I won't fight you to the death about it. But I think they'd be nice to have."
Mayor Jack Powell said $28,000 should not be looked on as "chump change."
"It's possible that it's the difference between whether we have the resources to do the whole project or not," he said. "I understand that it's a small percent of the whole project, but it's $28,000."
Ultimately, the city council unanimously approved a motion including alternates one and three. They were split on the inclusion of alternate two, with Powell calling the vote in its favor.
The proposed expansion project will include adding more than 11,000 square feet of space between a proposed first floor and basement addition north of the current building. An additional 780 square feet of space will be added on the south end.
Last year the city council had appropriated $1.4 million in second penny money, a Community Development Block Grant that brought in approximately $192,500 and a longtime University of South Dakota library science professor had donated $800,000 toward the project before she passed away in July.
At Monday's meeting, Flanagin said the library board also contributed $138,000 – virtually all its resources – and raised more than $200,000 for interior furnishings.
"A year ago, we weren't even talking about the library because we didn't have any money," Powell said. "And we're scraping dollars wherever we can get them, we've gone out to our public, we do things inside so we can get the library that we deserve."