Isanti liquor store’s expansion may be put on ice

The City of Isanti has purchased land for a new municipal liquor store to be built, and the plan was to build during the 2021 construction season. However, the city council did not like the numbers proposed by the architectural firm used by city engineers Bolton and Menk, which may delay the project one year. 

“This is the next step in the liquor store process now that we have the land and have begun the survey on it. This is to do the design all the way through construction,” said City Engineer Jason Cook as he introduced the architectural proposal from Brunton Architects. 

He informed the council that fee proposals included in the proposal from Bolton and Menk are from design through bidding, as well as site staking, management, and site inspection through completion of the site. 

Brunton Architects submitted their proposal for design and build, with a non-pitched roof as the base design and a pitched roof would increase the total estimated cost by $250,000-300,000.

“He’s wrong. I hate to tell you, he’s wrong, Jason,” said Council Member Steve Lundeen about the cost of doing a pitched roof versus a flat roof. “A pitched roof isn’t going to . . . a hot roof is going to cost a lot more money than that. Trust me. And, the HVAC equipment? Air handlers can sit down on the ground behind the building and get ducted in. He’s reaching to push something. I don’t want to see a maintenance issue down the road. A flat roof in Minnesota is not a design building roof.”

He suggested allowing an HVAC company bid for the design and build of that system for the building. 

Cook explained this proposal wasn’t necessarily asking for additional fees, but it was explaining the additional cost would be, including any fees, to go with a pitched roof rather than the base flat roof. He also explained the city could get extended insurance warranties fairly inexpensive in order to get a 20- or 30-year extended warranty on a flat roof. 

Mayor Jeff Johnson agreed with Lundeen. “I’m not happy with their fee schedule, either, Jason,” he said, asking to postpone the agenda item.

City Administrator Josi Wood asked Cook what other options would be if the council was not satisfied with the proposal. The only other option would be to put out a request for proposals from architectural firms, which would have a fee from Bolton and Menk to put together the criteria to have them bid equally. “(Brunton Architects) numbers are in the general industry standard of more or less 8% the project cost,” Cook added regarding the proposal. “With that said, that actual total with their fees is significantly less than originally budgeted for by about 20%. This topic of a pitched roof or not, that dollar amount is not included in their numbers.” 

Finance Director Mike Betker noted that his goal whenever putting together a budget for projects is to think about the worst case scenario, because he wants to be able to prove that even in the worst case scenario the project will work. “So, they should be under what I budgeted,” he said.  

Johnson said he thought this proposal looked like the worst case scenario, and if it were bid out someone would come back with a much better offer. 

Cook explained that the fee schedule was only for any additional activities the architectural company was asked to do outside of the bid proposal, adding that he specifically asked the company to use a baseline fee in the proposal rather than their typical percentage of the final project cost.

The council asked Cook to submit a proposal for creating a request for bids by the Dec. 1 council meeting to get bids from other architectural and design firms.

When asked what delaying decisions regarding the proposal or seeking new proposals would do for the project timeline and completing the project in 2021, Betker said it is best to send out requests for bids in February and award in March or April at the latest in order to get onto the contractor’s schedule and get a favorable bid. If waiting until later like June or July, bids can sometimes increase by 15-20%.

However, Betker also stated, “The council needs to make sure they are doing this right, rather than stick to an arbitrary timeline.” He noted he did not want the council rushing into something it was not comfortable with, and it could potentially push the project off for a year.

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