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Sticker shock

Sticker shock Sticker shock

County looks at options as estimate for Rib Lake shop comes in high


Members of the Taylor County highway committee are keeping their options open as the updated cost of the planned Rib Lake shop put it at close to double the cost estimate given in August 2020.

As planned, the project involves building a 15,600 square foot structure split between being 7,200 square feet of cold storage and 8,400 square feet of heated maintenance shop area. The goal of the project is to replace the existing Rib Lake highway shop while also providing additional storage for highway equipment that is used seasonally and currently stored outside or around the main highway shop in Medford.

The initial estimate for the project given in August 2020 was for $1.7 million. At Tuesday’s committee meeting, Bob Sworski of CBS Squared, presented the site plans for final approval along with an estimated cost sheet putting that project at close to 80% higher than the preliminary estimate from two years ago. County committee keeps options open when looking at Rib Lake s

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In the time since the project planning began, Sworski said prices have skyrocketed due to a variety of reasons. He noted that early in the pandemic, Amazon secured about 50% of the steel output in the United States to building distribution centers around the country. This drove up prices for everyone else, which in turn triggered companies going to other materials such as precast concrete walls leading to cost increases and delays in getting those materials.

Sworski said that while prices are higher now, they are finally seeing them leveling off rather than taking sharp increases.

This was little consolation to committee members concerned that the county board may decide to not go ahead with the project at the higher cost.

“I want to know if it is viable to present a scaled back option,” said committee member Ray Soper. He suggested having the engineer determine the cost of scaling back the project to not include the cold storage portion.

“I think that is something you have to consider. It might not pass county board with this number,” he said.

However, as committee member Rod Adams noted, “Building prices aren’t going to come down.” He said if the project was something the county needed they needed to stick to their guns and figure out a way to make it work. He suggested the possibility of pulling some of the borrowing earmarked for roads to go toward the new highway building or from elsewhere.

One potential funding source is federal American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) funds which were awarded to the county and each municipality as part of the COVID- 19 relief package. The county has about $1.9 million in ARPA funds available, but with little guidance on acceptable uses of ways to spend that money has been hesitant to use it on anything. Sworski assured committee members that at least a portion of the project would be eligible for ARPA funding. Other potentials include additional borrowing or cutting back on the project as proposed by Soper.

Sworski said it would present a signifiant savings to reduce the size of the building. He suggested that if the county went that route, they would want to look at slightly increasing the size of the heated space while also extending the foundation to the full footprint of the planned building. He said at that point it would give the county future options to add on or even to put a lean-to addition onto the building for future cold storage needs.

Committee chairman Scott Mildbrand said they would need to look at all options, noting the highway shop is not the only need facing the county. He cited the recent employee wage study as something that will require county resources to retain employees.

Committee members asked for Sworski to bring in a scaled back number as well as the full proposal to bring to a joint meeting of the highway and finance committees on January 20 to look at options.

County board chairman Jim Metz said a county board session would be called for the beginning of February. This would allow the board’s approval to move forward with advertising for bidding by the end of the first week in February to allow for an early March bid approval.

In addition to the possibility of a smaller overall building, committee members also noted other project areas that needed to be tweaked including shifting the planned driveway to avoid areas designated as wetland.

When it comes to bidding the overall project, Sworski advised committee members to break the project into five separate bid packages. He said while the general contractor would still have oversight over the whole project, breaking it into smaller bid packages would give opportunity for smaller firms to bid for portions of the work and make the project more competitive to bring down costs.

In other business, committee members approved the bridge aid request from the town of Goodrich for Mink Drive. The 36-inch metal culvert that had been in place washed out in a storm this fall and was replaced on an emergency repair. The total cost of the project was $2,541.66 which is split with the county for the bridge aid program.

Bob Sworski, vice president of CBS Squared engineering firm reviewed the plans for a proposed highway shop in Rib Lake with members of the county’s highway committee on Tuesday morning. The county has been working on plans for the new facility to replace the existing shop in that area as well as addressing long-term storage needs for the highway department to free up space at the Medford shop. With project estimates much higher than originally proposed, committee members are looking at ways to scale back the project or find other funding sources to help pay for it.BRIAN WILSON/THE STAR NEWS