Government Center, LEC remodels to cost $5.4M

Published 9:36 am Wednesday, August 1, 2012

County and city officials received good news and bad news Tuesday on remodeling projects.

The bad news: The cost of the joint Law Enforcement Center remodel is now estimated at more than $2 million — about $400,000 more than the $1.6 million the city and county had set aside for the project.

The good news: The county’s cost to remodel the Government Center for Health and Human Services has dropped to about $3.4 million — down from the previous estimate of $3.7 million.

Email newsletter signup

The project’s architect, Paul R. Johnson Architects, and construction management firm Knutson Construction updated the county board, city officials and law enforcement leaders Tuesday on the costs and plans for the tandem remodeling projects in the Government Center: one to remodel the vacant space in the former jail and old courtrooms to house Health and Human Services, the other to update and modernize the LEC.

“The project is progressing very well,” said John Pristash of Knutson.

For Knutson, one of the next steps is to coordinate with staff and plan how to keep all departments open during construction.

“The most difficult part of the project is the coordination involved with working around the occupied building,” Pristash said in an email to the Herald after Tuesday’s meeting.

He added they’ll have to carefully address life safety systems, heating and cooling, and plumbing work are all completed in a planned sequence that is communicated to all departments.

City and county officials also have decisions to make before construction is slated to begin on the project in February of 2013, which should last nine or 10 months. The first decision is how to pay for the additional costs of the LEC portion of the remodel. The city and county each previously designated $800,000 for the projects, and they’ll have to figure out how to split the $400,000 in additional costs.

County Coordinator Craig Oscarson said it may make the most sense for the city and county to each pay an additional $200,000, though the City Council and County Board ultimately will make the decision.

City Administrator Jim Hurm suggested the LEC Committee, which consists of city and county leaders, meet next week to discuss the issue to come up with a recommendation.

On both the LEC and Health and Human Services sides of the project, officials will have to discuss potential additional costs and add-ons.

One of the most significant could come from dispatch, where the plans already call for its space to almost double so dispatchers are further away and not distracting each other while on calls.

That doesn’t address a technological problem caused by tight wiring and dust build up in tight spaces.

Paul Johnson, the project’s chief architect, is recommending the city and county opt to spend an additional $10,000 to install a raised floor by about 4 to 6 inches for wiring and other electrical needs in dispatch. That way, repairs can be made by simply removing a tile, which is similar to ceiling panels.

“It’s a relatively inexpensive item, and we strongly suggest that you consider it,” Johnson said.

Sheriff Terese Amazi said county IT and Motorola representatives, the dispatch equipment provider, have also recommended the sub floor.

Another item not currently in the budget that the county could add is replacing windows. Many of the windows on the upper level, which will house the offices for Health and Human Services, conference rooms and examination rooms, will be replaced. The county could choose to replace the windows with more energy efficient ones throughout the rest of the building because Johnson said it could throw the heating and cooling systems off if people begin opening their windows.