Blue Earth County pleased with Government Center bids
MANKATO — The first work on a major multi-year project to renovate and add on to the Blue Earth County Government center should begin late next month after a healthy number of bids came in from contractors.
“They came in well,” said Bob Meyer, Blue Earth County administrator, of the bids that were opened recently for the project that is estimated to cost $24 million.
“We had 100 bids that came in for all the different packages. There were 32 bid packages for all the different trades and project points.” He said some firms bid on more than one of the packages.
Meyer said those 32 packages include all of the things the County Board wants to accomplish in the project but didn’t include everything on their wish list. “We knew $24 million would be tight to do everything so we pulled some things out that we could live without.”
While the bids are still being reviewed, Meyer said it appears the basic project bids total about $22 million, leaving some room for possible add-ons to be included.
The project will start in late March with demolition of the existing parking ramp.
The project includes building a new ramp first and then adding new office space with one floor below ground and two floors above ground. About 25,000 square feet of office area will be added.
Then existing space in the building will be renovated.
The center is at the corner of South Fifth and East Cherry streets. The city of Mankato completely reconstructed South Fifth last summer and added angled parking on the street.
Meyer said that with the main project apparently under the estimate they may be able to add in a few things on their contingency list.
He said one item that may be added would be more work on the basement. “We have a basement but were leaving that largely unfinished and that’s still the plan. But as we renovate the existing building we will have to move some staff around, so we wanted to invest some in the basement for lighting and heat and a bathroom and things. So we could use the basement for temporary space instead of moving staff to alternate space or renting space.”
He said they had also hoped to install a generator that would keep the entire building, including all the computers, running uninterrupted in case of a power outage. The current plan is for a generator to keep on lights and some basic functions. But Meyer said they probably won’t be able to afford the upgraded generator unless they can find some savings elsewhere.
While commissioners haven’t yet studied the bids, Commissioner Drew Campbell said he likes what he’s heard.
“I heard they had more bidders than they expected, which is a good sign. It means it was very competitive.”
As part of the bids, the county requires “prevailing wages” are paid to workers, which means the higher, often union-based local wages, are paid to workers on the site of a project. That’s something Campbell believes in.
“I’ve done some studying on that and it actually helps the whole economy of the region and the expectations of the builders. Paying adequate wages gets you good work and it takes care of families. It’s a good thing.”
He said that so far he’s been happy with the plan put together by the architects and engineers at ISG and said he hopes that some of the things that had to be removed from the original plan might be added back. “If we get the right bid that gives us some wiggle room.”
The bids will be reviewed by the County Board at their Tuesday meeting. Final approval of bids by the board is expected later in the month.
Meyer said they are planning for the disruptions that will occur over the next couple of years. “There will be some access issues, but we’ll certainly have signs to direct people and make it the best we can.”
He said that until the new ramp is built, employees will park in designated spaces in nearby parking lots that the county has rented. They also expanded the county lot across the street from the Historic Court House. The addition of angled parking on the street should help for customer parking, he said.
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