Bids were awarded Thursday morning to the lowest-cost bids for construction and other contract work on the new Ward County office building, though a hard date for breaking ground on the project has not yet been set.
After taking Wednesday to go over the final bid results, which were published by The Minot Daily News Ward County Commissioners with input from JLG Architects, the firm designing the building, decided to award the general building work to Mattson Construction, mechanical work to Mowbray and Sons Plumbing & Heating, and electrical work to either Main Electric or Wheeler Contracting. All four firms are based in Minot.
The reason one contracter wasn't determined for electrical work is because they will have to figure out which represents the best value for the six alternates decided upon by motions the commissioners passed Thursday.
Mattson Construction, which employs commissioner Jerome Gruenberg, overall the cheapest option to begin with, bid $11,686,956 on the project including the chosen alternates. Mowbray's total including all the alternates would be $2,255,880. Wheeler's total for the alternates is $2,630,248 with all the chosen alternates. Main's total is $2,715,650 with all the chosen alternates.
After much debate, some of it nearly becoming emotional based on the longevity of the decisions and price, the commissioners voted to go for a complete build-out for a fourth floor on the north-protion of the building, which encompasses Alternates 1 and 2; a "Skyway," or suspended walkway that will connect the county courthouse to the office building, which is Alternate 3; upgrading the standard fiber concrete wall panels to a composite material, which is Alternate 4; upgrading the standard painted gypsum ceiling panels with wooden ceilings; and removing the atrium stairway between the second and third floors, which is Alternate 11.
That last alternate was decided upon in a follow-up motion upon the suggestion of Gruenberg, who had voted against the primary motion. He said that the complete build-out for the fourth floor would allow for two elevators each extending from the basement to the fourth floor and that the stairs would be an unnecessary extra expense.
Commissioner John Fjeldahl, who made both passing motions, hadn't thought of the deduction before Gruenberg brought it up and said that it was too late now.
For the most part, Fjeldahl and Commissioner Shelly Weppler were the primary defenders of housing the Ward County Library within the building itself. The other three commissioners had different ideas for the library. Gruenberg and chairman Jack Nybakken each voted "no: on Fjeldahl's first motion, and commissioner Alan Walter spoke of his reservations about his vote before eventually voting "yes."
"I really think we're limiting ourselves with this vote," Walter said, largely expressing his disappointment that too much space would be taken up by the library on the first floor. He had questioned the patronage of the library compared to that of Social Services, which would move to the fourth floor.
"I don't think we should put a library in that building at this time," Gruenberg said. "Or ever."
Orlin Backes, a member of the Citizen's Committee, spoke up to echo his support of the library in the building, but prefaced it with the fact that he thought it was a terrible idea before hearing Fjeldahl and Weppler's arguments for it. They had argued that there is "no better deal" available than relocating the library into the building since it would eventually have to be moved anyway and acquiring new land would be even more expensive.
Gruenberg had supported only a shell of a fourth floor, but otherwise supported the other alternates that made it into the final decision.