Liquor store manager frustrated with new building delays

After rejecting a design and build proposal from city engineer Jason Cook of Bolton and Menk at its last meeting, Isanti City Council directed Cook to draft a proposal to write and administer a request for proposals for general architectural services for a new municipal liquor store building. Cook presented the proposal at the Dec. 1 city council meeting, stating he first wanted to clarify some things. 

In the request for proposal, the proposed scope of the work will be described and a lump sum fee will be requested to include cost estimating, structural engineering design, mechanical engineering design, electrical engineering design, plumbing design, HVAC design, fire sprinkling design, exterior and interior design, and other related design services, Cook explained. 

“This is laid out to essentially solicit for proposals in the exact same manner that the Brunston Architects one was, where it is all combined into one service package, just due to the fact that the city wouldn’t be planning to act as the general contractor and individually solicit for all those services,” Cook added, noting the process to solicit proposals from other companies is expected to add three to four months to the process due to the cost of the project and the time to advertise for proposals. 

Council Member Steve Lundeen and Mayor Jeff Johnson reiterated their frustrations with the proposal received from Brunton Architects, such as the interior design fee, the cost of a pitched versus flat roof, and the use of concrete walls, which Lundeen said would not be energy efficient.  

“Before you say anything, while you were going to college, I was working on those things. It’s ridiculous,” Lundeen said to Cook. “He’s asking for things, to me, I wouldn’t put in my doghouse.”

A stick frame building with spray foam insulation, would produce a better building, Lundeen noted. 

Johnson proposed creating a special building committee, which would include city council, the city administrator, liquor store manager, and Cook.

At that point, Isanti Municipal Liquor Store Manager John Jacobi spoke up. “I just want one input on this thing. I want you all to understand what this is doing to us right now. The day before Thanksgiving, we did as much as New Year’s Eve. Do you know what that is doing to my staff?” he said, noting his concerns with COVID-19 in such a small building during busy times. 

“I’ve got people coming in arguing with me that I can’t get their beer. Why? Because I’ve got no place to put it. I don’t have half the damn bourbon that people are asking me for. I can’t put it in there. I don’t have room,” Jacobi continued. “I need this thing to move and I need it to move fast, and my customers are asking me for it. That’s what I’m asking you.”

Lundeen said he understood what Jacobi was saying, but he did not want to build a store for $500,000 to one million dollars more than it should be. 

“I understand that, but we need to get moving. I don’t want this thing to stall,” Jacobi said. “We already got the land, it’s sitting there. I want to move. I want to get my customers happy. I’m going to lose them. I’m losing them already.”

In order to keep things moving forward, Cook suggested meeting with Brunton Architects to discuss options for the building project as it pertains to types of walls, roof, and other things. He explained that another route could be hiring a project manager to manage the project, and find and hire companies to do all aspects, but that would cost more than hiring a design/build firm to oversee the project.

Lundeen told the council that he knew of a company that could submit a proposal that would be less costly than the proposal from Brunston Architects. 

If that is the case, and a different company can propose a design the city likes better, manage the team, and have a cost less than what is currently proposed, things could continue moving forward, Cook said, noting that would be kind of like getting a second opinion. Since this is not bids for actual construction of the building, the city is not obligated to solicit bids from numerous companies, he added. 

Seeking requests for proposals with the exact same wording as the Brunston Architects proposal would probably not come back satisfactory to the city, and even if there were a 10% reduction in proposed cost, it did not seem cost effective, Cook noted. “We spent $5,000 for me and 12-15 hours of staff time messing around with it, and we’re going to end up with the same result,” he said. “And, in the end we just lost six months and we didn’t really come out ahead on cost.”

Ultimately, the council agreed to let Lundeen contact the business he knows for a second estimate.

Council agrees to reduce letter of credit to Legacy Pines

The developer for the Legacy Pines 2nd and 3rd addition, Everpine Land Holdings, has submitted a request to amend its letter of credit for the project, reducing the amount of cash the city is holding. Community Development Director Sheila Sellman told the council this is not something city staff recommends, as it puts the city at risk financially if the project is not completed and sets a bad precedent. 

Bob Machacek of Everpine Land Holdings told the council he understands the development agreement, and why cities put them in place. “I’m not going to sit here and debate Jason (Cook) on what all is left here, but when there’s $150,000 worth of work left to do, and you guys want to hold $400,000 for the next six months, I’m just asking for reasonableness,” he said, noting he has been doing everything he said he would do for the project.  

Cook explained that the city could reduce the letter of credit on some of the items that are completed, estimating it could be reduced by about $100,000. 

The amount the council decides to reduce the letter of credit depends on how much liability it wants to take on. “I don’t doubt Bob is going to do what he says he’s going to do, but we don’t know that, that’s why it’s called a guarantee,” Sellman said. 

The council asked Finance Director Mike Betker his recommendation. He told the council that if it did amend the development agreement, to make sure it is clear why the council did it for future reference. 

The council decided to reduce the letter of credit to 10% on accepted finished work, stay at 20% on things that are installed, but not yet accepted, and maintain 125% on anything not yet completed.

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