Ward County will be moving forward on the jail expansion project, at least in preliminary stages. A full special meeting of the county commission has been scheduled for Jan. 6 at 9 a.m. to outline the first steps.
Those steps may involve soil testing, with one commissioner at this past Tuesday's regular meeting referencing much earlier soil testing done years ago that showed a significant change in soil composition in the immediate area from where the current jail sits at the corner of Fourth Street Southeast and the vacated section of Third Avenue Southeast.
"Nothing can be designed until we do some of the preliminary work, such as soil studies and those kinds of things, so what I'm asking is the commission to authorize the architect to get those kinds of things going so that when we go into design it works. We have to have some statistics for our foundations," said commission chairman Jerome Gruenberg.
The commission approved that request unanimously.
A storm sewer will also have to be rerouted in the area for the upcoming project.
The jail design option the commissioners chose back in February, while in rough and speculative drawing stage, had the largest footprint of all the options presented to them, but left the most room for future expansion and was said to be the most efficient in terms of staffing.
In order to move forward, the county had to acquire land owned by The Minot Daily News, namely the newspaper's parking lot. No other designs would have required the acquisition. But the parties could not agree to terms and the county took possession of the lot Nov. 27 claiming eminent domain.
Eminent domain is a method by which a governmental jurisdiction takes private property for public use and then pays the landowner what it deems fair.
"It's ours, the land is ours," Gruenberg said of the parking lot when commissioner John Fjeldahl asked about the "current situation" regarding the property at Tuesday's meeting.
CMAR or general
Also of significant consideration is whether the county wants to go the route of general contracting work on the project or if they take the "construction manager at risk," or hiring CMAR. A CMAR is one contracting company involved from the preliminary design stages of a project until the very end which is "at risk" for staying within a determined budget.
Sheriff Steve Kukowski made a last-minute presentation to the commissioners at Tuesday's meeting to speak on behalf of the CMAR idea. He had been speaking with other sheriffs and jail and penitentiary managers across the state and also in Minnesota to hear their own stories about jail construction using either route.
"They went with a CMAR, they're very happy and satisfied and it was a good experience. They did an $80 million expansion. They stayed on top of the issues," Kukowski said of his talks with Bruce Reiser, warden of Minnesota Correctional Facility in the Faribault region. "All the work stayed within budget."
Among the many others Kukowski also spoke with was Bill Montgomery, who is in charge of the State of Minnesota Department of Corrections, who also said good things.
"They built something called a variable intake. They built three housing units. They said it was the best contractor they've ever worked with, talking about the CMAR," Kukowski said of his talks with Montgomery.
Commissioners remain unsure of which direction to proceed, but Gruenberg has been most opposed to the idea of hiring a CMAR in recent meetings where the prospect has been brought up.
"I was most concerned with change orders and what these hidden costs would be," Kukowski said, referencing changes in the design to a building that takes place after the budget has been established and the main design already decided. "But they all (people he spoke with) say they minimized them."
Highway engineer Dana Larsen also spoke about his own investigations into the CMAR idea, and outlined how the process would go if the commissioners choose to work with a CMAR.
Other business at
A joint powers agreement between the City of Minot and Ward County, which was drafted by city attorney John Van Grinsven III, was tabled at the meeting pending further review of the responsibility of demolition costs for homes acquired within the extra territorial area of the city. "Without this," Larsen said of the agreement, "it's going to be all on us."
A disused radio tower located in the county that Capt. Bob Barnard of the Ward County Sheriff's Department has been involved in the management of will apparantly cost $5,000 to be inspected before demolition if the county chooses to keep possession. A company that keeps a radio repeater unit on the tower may be willing to take on the costs of inspection and demolition, though.