Construction bids for Government Center, LEC remodel come in 30 percent under budgetPublished 10:10am Wednesday, February 13, 2013
County and city officials received good news at Tuesday’s county board meeting.
John Pristash of Knutson Construction told the officials that bids for the Government Center and Law Enforcement Center remodel project came in about 30 percent below budget.
“The bids came in very favorably,” he said.
The project will remodel the vacant spaces in the Government Center to make room to move Health and Human Services from Oak Park Mall, plus the city and county will jointly fund a remodel of the LEC.
Officials originally estimated the project cost at around $5.4 million total — about $1.8 jointly with the city to fund the LEC remodel, and about $3.6 for the county’s remodel for Health and Human Services. But now, it’s likely the final pricetag will come in considerably lower, though the county and Knutson are still looking into a few bidding firms and other details before finalizing the project’s estimated budget. The initial bid package for the construction work came in at about $2.4 million, and the overall project cost could be less than $5 million.
Commissioners accepted the preliminary bids Tuesday and were pleased with the results.
“The bottom line is it’s still a big surprise how low these bids came in,” Board Chairman Jerry Reinartz said.
“A pleasant surprise,” Commissioner Mike Ankeny added.
Still, board members were cautious with their optimism. Tony Bennett urged his fellow commissioners not to spend too freely after receiving favorable bids.
“Because the bids came in low, I want to be cautious not to spend money that we otherwise wouldn’t have,” Bennett said.
However, officials did choose to add in a few pieces back into the budget, mainly about $131,500 to repair and replace air handling units. Since the units are aged, commissioners said it’s necessary work that will need to happen sooner or later.
“If we’re going to do it, then it’s probably the time to do it,” Commissioner Tim Gabrielson said.
The project costs still could increase, as the city and county set a 20 percent contingency fund for unexpected costs. Officials say costs could increase once crews tear into the walls, especially if they find rusted pipes or other issues.
“You never know when you start pulling stuff apart what you’ll find,” County Coordinator Craig Oscarson said.
Officials also voiced questions about one of the low bidders being qualified for the job. Knutson Construction officials will review the bids this week before they are finalized to make sure the companies will be able to complete the work. The bids will go before the City Council next week.
Much of the project’s work will come from local contractors. Austin firms won the bids to complete about 22 percent of the work, and southeastern Minnesota firms won the bids for about 67 percent of the work, according to Pristash.
“A good share of the work did stay local, which I know is something that’s important to the board,” he said.
The county previously hired Knutson Construction as the project’s construction management firm and Paul Johnson Architects Inc. to work on the project.
Work is set to begin on the project next month, with an asbestos abatement beginning March 4, followed by the start of construction. The low bid for the asbestos abatement came from Environmental Plant Services for $87.940. Angstrom Analytical will also handle industrial hygiene during the asbestos abatement.
The project is slated to be completed by the end of the year, and Pristash said they could complete the project in November if all goes well.
The move will mean Health and Human Services will be leaving the mall, which the county currently rents from the mall through the Development Corporation of Austin.