Commissioners request bids to replace courthouse
MIO — Building Consultant Will Olsen presented a request for proposal to construct a new courthouse at the Oscoda County Board of Commissioners’ April 7 special meeting.
At the meeting, commissioners unanimously approved signing the discussed RFP package and sending it out to those interested in taking on the project. Commissioners also unanimously approved adding a unisex family bathroom to the RFP in addition to separate facilities for men’s and women’s bathrooms.
Olsen, who is married to Commissioner LaNita Olsen, works for Bechtel Construction. He was working on the project on his own time, taking no fees for his services, and was not working on the project on behalf of Bechtel. However, the board did pay for Olsen’s flight from Texas to attend the meeting.
He said no negotiations had been made yet and the RFP was just a way to get bid from those interested in accepting the contract. The RFP provides general guidelines of things that could go in the building.
“This RFP is not to go out and build something,” Olsen said. “It’s to get this ball rolling, to get the discussion focused on a single goal.”
Those interested in making a bid would need to submit a letter of interest. During the pre-bid process the county would have a chance to research the bidders. Once letters are submitted, bidders approved by the county would be able to take part in a pre-bid meeting. This would allow bidders to ask commissioners questions and do a walkthrough of the future building site. Olsen said he and the board would be looking to see if the bidders were responsive to the county’s needs at the meeting.
“You want to work as a team and you want them to understand your needs,” he said.
Olsen said once the bidder is selected, the county would start hammering out the details of the project. He said different builders may have different ideas for how to implement the general specifications. These could include building a two-story facility instead of a one-story, but would need to stay near the 8,110-square-foot parameters and work with the insurance funds available, according to Olsen.
In minutes from the Feb. 14 commissioners meeting, the insurance funds available for the new facility would total one million dollars with $600,000 available to make sure it meets necessary building codes.
The selected bidder would work with the insurance company to make sure its plans for the new building would be covered using the funds available, Olsen said. The completion date for the project would be no later than nine months after the contract is awarded to the selected bidder. Olsen said he thought this was achievable and would not impact the cost.
“That’s a realistic goal that gives you something to shoot for,” he said.
Chairwoman Brandy Wright asked if the deadline would be flexible depending on the timeline a selected bidder gives for the project.
“That can absolutely be negotiated,” Olsen said.
“Nine months works for me, the sooner the better, but we also want quality work,” Wright said.
Olsen said during the pre-bid process the county would be able to assess whether a firm would be able to meet the desired nine-month timeline.
The accepted bidder would need to make the building ready to go when it finishes the project, according to Olsen. This would help to ensure courthouse employees do not damage new equipment by trying to set it up on their own.
“You don’t want to damage the walls putting in the equipment; putting in the desks, putting in the chairs,” Olsen said. “Now you’re fixing it.”
Landscaping for the new facility would also need to be ready on completion of the building, such as sodding, clearing the sidewalk and planting bushes.
Olsen said alternative bids, such as public-private partnerships, could be larger than the 8,110 square feet. If this type of bid were accepted, it would provide the county with funds from the private sector to build a more elaborate building outside of the insurance funds available in place of public funding. Olsen said a PPP would require the county to repay the amount over an agreed-upon period of time and to hire an attorney who specializes in negotiating the contract.
“There are things you can do in that public-private partnership that could save the county money in the long run and give us a centralized facility,” Olsen said.
Commissioner Jack Kischnick questioned whether a public-
private partnership would be right for the county.
“Why are we even considering an alternative bid?” Kischnick said. “I thought we were just talking about an 8,110-square-foot replacement building.”
Olsen said as a resident of the county he was interested in seeing if any companies would offer this type of bid considering the aging infrastructure in the county.
“This could come back to help us in the future,” Olsen said.
Both Wright and Olsen said it was entirely possible no one would propose this type of bid. Olsen said he could take this part off the RFP, but after further discussion the board left it on the current document.
Previously, commissioners worked with the architectural firm Wigen Tincknell Associates on plans for a multi-department building that would’ve required public funding. Commissioners ended its contract with WTA at its Dec. 27 meeting, following disputes about the size and cost of the new facility. The county spent $68,912.65 working with the firm.
The bidders would be able to select different companies to implement their ideas for the building, but there is a provision in the RFP for these companies to be local.
“I have provisions for that for what I know is available in the county and Northeastern Michigan,” Olsen said.
Olsen gave an example of using mechanical equipment like a boiler that could be serviced by technicians in Northeastern Michigan.
Olsen said the RFP outlines using standard materials for things such as carpet and furniture.
“When you get into a public space you’re going to sacrifice a little bit of glitz for quality,” he said.
Many of the items in the RFP are subject to change, according to Olsen. Different options, for example lockers, provided throughout the document give builders guidelines if they decide to include the option in the building.
“Just because it’s in here, doesn’t mean it’s going to be in your building,” he said.
Commissioners are able to alert companies to bid on the project. However, once the county signs off on the RFP, commissioners would not be able to say what companies are bidding on the project until the pre-bid meeting.
Commissioners thanked Olsen for his work on the RFP.
“I would like to thank you on behalf of the county for doing this,” LaNita Olsen said. “When you first came to a meeting with Brenda (Moore) and Brandy (Wright) at the first inception of (the RFP), the three of us looked at each other and said, ‘We are in way over our heads.’”
“You’ve really looked out on our behalf,” Wright said. “I really appreciate it and I’m sure the board does.”
The RFP is set to be posted for public record on April 12, and bidding will close on April 21, according to Olsen. The pre-bid meeting and walkthrough is set to happen at 10 a.m. April 21.
The next commissioners meeting is set for April 11 at 10 a.m. with a workshop an hour prior.