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Supervisors table accepting Armstrong shop bid

November 15, 2013
By Michael Tidemann - Staff Writer , Estherville News

The Emmet County Board of Supervisors Tuesday again tabled accepting a bid for an addition to the Armstrong county shop.

The board tabled accepting a bid two weeks ago, board chair Alan Madden noting the low bid by Christensen Construction of Estherville was 25 percent over county engineer Roger Patocka's estimate. Christensen had submitted a bid of $124,500, with the other bids by Larson Contracting Central of Lake Mills for $153,846 and Midstates Builders of Lawton for $216,597.

Rich Blinkmann of secondary roads said though that the engineer's estimate had been done two years before and that metal prices had also gone up since then. He noted $13,000 in savings by holding back on other projects, such as not doing the tanks at the county shop.

"There are personal things that have entered into my mind," said Madden, observing that at the board's meeting two weeks ago a motion had been made to approve the low bid, but died for lack of a second. Supervisor Jon Martyr had made the motion.

Supervisor Bev Juhl said she would like to see the project put on hold until the board could see a long-term plan for what was needed for the entire secondary roads operation.

But Blinkmann said the department had done a plan. "That's (the Armstrong shop addition) a priority for secondary roads," he said.

Supervisor Ron Smith agreed with Juhl, noting that the department has a couple pickups that should have been replaced, as well as an aging truck fleet - while it costs $250,000 to replace one truck.

"I don't think the board's against putting a building up," said Smith. "We have a lot of issues with secondary roads - many, many issues."

Patocka pointed to a declining fuel tax and tax rollback for declining revenues to the department - alongside rising expenses and heavier traffic on county roads. And, while the county had been on a program to buy a new motor grader every two years, the county has bought four in the last 12. On top of that, the department is spending more for repairs and maintenance, he said. He said he also wanted to ensure that maintenance continues in outlying areas. "Those are all the factors to come into this. We try to plan the best we can," Patocka said.

Madden cautioned that once blacktop roads start breaking up it only takes a year for severe damage to result.

Smith offered going back to gravel roads when necessary as an option. "We've got good, good gravel here in Emmet County," said Smith.

Supervisor Jon Martyr, who had made the motion to approve the low Christensen bid two weeks ago, said he supported secondary roads and building the addition. He then asked whether the board was going to allow secondary roads to do its job.

"We previously approved this building," said Martyr. "I think this is more a political issue than a financial issue."

Martyr pointed to the board's desire to buy - then not - the former BASF property for a county shop after deeming it structurally inappropriate.

"That (buying the BASF property) wasn't their (secondary roads') idea. It was this board's idea," said Martyr.

"I support this building," said Martyr. "As far as planning, we have been doing the planning. We just keep delaying."

Madden directed his next comments to Patocka.

"There's a difference between wants and needs," Madden said to Patocka. "To me this is a want. Is that the best use of this $124,000? I don't like to go back and revisit these things but sometimes we have to do that. This is a gut-wrenching experience for me," said Madden, noting other concerns in secondary roads. "I don't think it's (the addition) the highest need that we have right now."

Patocka said the Armstrong shed has three bays now, and that it's had as many as four bays. He said that makes unsafe working conditions - to which he attributed one injury last year due to overcrowding.

"There comes to be a point over there where you need to have the room for the equipment," Patocka said.

Supervisor Tim Schumacher said he could see both sides of the issue - that space was needed but that some of the equipment was older. He noted the Christensen bid had given additional costs of add-ons and asked for clarification. "What's the actual cost of this building going to be?" he asked.

Patocka said the $124,000 addition would be of the same construction of the existing building.

Martyr also noted that two weeks ago the board had asked Patocka the same question and that Patocka said he was going with the base bid.

Schumacher shifted the discussion to department response time.

"I have to ask about response time," Schumacher said.

"When it snows, the guys come in at 6," said Blinkmann.

Schumacher said he had been in the western part of the county after the recent snow and that the road wasn't done by 8:30.

Noting that Martyr had said he was not making a motion for approval, said Madden, "I think this issue is tabled for the time being."



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