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Bids far exceed Kanidyohi County's estimates to bring elevators up to state code

WILLMAR -- Bids to bring elevators in Kandiyohi County's government buildings up to new state codes were higher than expected.

"Disappointing" is how County Administrator Larry Kleindl described the three bids Tuesday.

A consultant had estimated the project at $524,500.

The lowest bid was $635,480 from Thyssenkrupp Elevator from Minneapolis.

That represents 4 percent of the county's 2011 levy, said Kleindl, who will be reviewing the bids with the consultant before making a recommendation to the board.

The Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners is expected to take action on the bids at the June 21 meeting.

The need to upgrade the 12 elevators, including those in the courthouse, old jail, library, County Office Building, Health and Human Services building, Prairie Lakes Detention Center and two county-owned buildings on the MinnWest Technology Campus came as a surprise to the County Board earlier this year.

Although the state adopted the federal elevator safety codes in 2007, many public and commercial entities weren't aware of the Dec. 31, 2011, deadline to meet the code.

Kandiyohi County did not have the elevator repairs in the budget, but without the repairs, the state could force the county to shut down the elevators.

"It takes money to keep your buildings up to code," Kleindl said.

With the deadline growing closer, there is a frenzy of bidding for projects. That means companies qualified to make the elevator upgrades are in high demand.

Bids across the state have been unfavorable, Kleindl said.

The Kandiyohi County bid included minimum specifications to bring the elevators up to code, as well as an alternate bid to "modernize" the courthouse elevator for an added cost.

Eliminating that alternate bid would mean a savings now, but the additional improvements would eventually have to be made. "Do you pay now or do you pay later?" Kleindl said. "It's not going to get any cheaper."

He said if the county had plans to build a new courthouse in the next 10 years, he would recommend that only the minimum repairs be made to the elevator. But there are currently no construction plans.

Work at the courthouse elevator will mean the elevator will be shut down, which will present challenges for keeping the courts operating in the second-floor court rooms. Kleindl said it's possible court may have to be held in another location during the elevator repairs.

Because of the demand in the state to meet the codes, work on the county's elevators might not begin immediately and may not be completed by the end of the year.

"Even if we accept the bids in June, it'll probably be six months before they can get to us," Kleindl said. "This isn't going to be a quick turnaround."

With a contract in hand, the state would likely grant an extension to the county.

In other action:

- The commissioners set a public hearing for 10 a.m. June 21 to discuss a request for a five-year tax abatement on 100 percent of county property taxes for the former Lake Lillian school building that has been repurchased with plans for a new commercial use, including apartments.

A previous business housed in the repurposed building is no longer there. The Lake Lillian City Council approved the abatement for the new owner. The school district will not be asked for the abatement, according to Steve Renquist, director of the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission. If approved, the county would forgive $948 in annual taxes for five years.

- A low bid of $827,570 from Duininck Inc. of Prinsburg was approved to re-grade County Road 26 east of Eagle Lake.

- The commissioners heard a report on a road cave-in and the emergency repair and replacement of a culvert on County Road 4 by Lake Lillian.

- The commissioners will meet at 6 p.m. Monday as the Board of Equalization.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750