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Yellow Medicine County delays choice on general contractor for courthouse

Yellow Medicine County is one step from contracting with a general contractor to launch a project to raze the 1889 courthouse in Granite Falls and a 1970s addition to it and build a new facility to hold court services and other county offices. (Tribune file photo)

GRANITE FALLS — Yellow Medicine County’s Board of Commissioners delayed selecting which of two firms to serve as general contractor for a project to raze the 1889 courthouse and a 1970s addition to it and build a new facility for court services and other county offices.

In a related matter on Tuesday, the commissioners also voted to pay off the remaining $1.7 million principal owed on a bond that financed the 2001-02 construction of a three-story facility attached to the courthouse holding a 38-bed jail, law enforcement center and offices for the social services department. Paying off the debt will allow the commissioners to finance a new building project while holding down taxes for the debt levy.

The vote to table action on hiring a general contractor came as the commissioners said they wanted to be certain that the apparent low bid did not include additional costs.

Contegrity Group Inc., of Little Falls, offered an estimate of $312,000 to serve as a general contractor for the proposed project. Fagen Engineering, of Granite Falls, offered a $360,800 bid to serve in that role, but included language indicating its cost was a “not to exceed” maximum, provided the scope of the project remained as proposed.

The estimate provided by the Contegrity Group included costs for travel and maintaining a trailer at the construction site. County Administrator Peg Heglund said that she received verbal confirmation from Contegrity co-owner Earl Fuechtmann that those costs were included in the estimated total, based on expectations for a 27-month project.

Commissioner John Berends, of Granite Falls, expressed concerns that they were not necessarily comparing “apples to apples” absent a written contract including a “not to exceed” clause. He proposed tabling action until written confirmation was obtained from the Contegrity Group on its bid, and that motion was unanimously approved.

The commissioners approved a motion in April to move forward with plans to raze the original courthouse and the 1970s addition and build a new facility. The commissioners have not approved a budget for a building project, but have discussed a project in the $5 million range, based on an earlier estimate provided by architects for the county.

The commissioners noted during discussions on Tuesday that once a general contractor is on board, they would begin the process of selecting an architect and determining the scope of work.

The commissioners have been discussing for some time whether to refinance or pay off the bonds for the 2001-02 law enforcement center, jail and social services building. Finance director Micelle May calculated that paying off the remaining principal of $1,750,000 would result in a savings of $333,000 in interest costs over the remaining eight years of the bond.

The county has $235,000 in its debt service reserve collected for payments on the bond this year, and will be collecting another $270,000 toward it. The commissioners agreed to apply those funds along with an estimated $1.25 million from general fund reserves to pay off the issue.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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