Government

Linn County leans toward Rinderknecht for public health building

Only 2 of the 7 contractors invited to make pitches for the project did

This rendering shows the proposed Dr. Percy and Lileah Harris Public Health and Child and Youth Development Services building planned for 1019 Seventh St. SE in Cedar Rapids. The Linn County Board of Supervisors in January 2018 OK’d its construction in a lease-purchase agreement. (OPN Architects)
This rendering shows the proposed Dr. Percy and Lileah Harris Public Health and Child and Youth Development Services building planned for 1019 Seventh St. SE in Cedar Rapids. The Linn County Board of Supervisors in January 2018 OK’d its construction in a lease-purchase agreement. (OPN Architects)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Linn County supervisors appear poised to contract with Rinderknecht Associates for construction of the county’s future public health and youth development services building.

During Monday’s informal meeting, the Linn County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1, with Supervisor John Harris opposed, to have staff prepare documents necessary to enter into a lease-purchase agreement with Cedar Rapids-based contractor Rinderknecht for the Dr. Percy and Lileah Harris Public Health and Youth Development Services building.

The board could formally vote on a drafted agreement this week.

If an agreement is reached, Rinderknecht would build the project and the county would buy it when completed at a predetermined price. The contractor assumes any risk associated with the construction process.

The county initially invited proposals for the project from seven area contractors. Only Rinderknecht and Miron Construction responded, with lump sum estimates from the two contractors coming in at $31.1 million and $30.5 million, respectively.

While Rinderknecht’s estimate came in higher, and both companies submitted proposals near the $31.5 million project limit already set by the board, Supervisor Brent Oleson said a process called value engineering will take place to lower the overall cost. That could remove wish-list items like LEED Platinum certification or specific materials.

“This motion basically says, ‘Let’s get the contractor that we’ve selected together with OPN (Architects), our architect of record, and our leadership team ... and come to an understanding of the basics,’” Oleson said before the vote. “To me it’s imperative that the contractor we select feel comfortable with those terms.”

In a memo to the board, Oleson said he recommended Rinderknecht because they provide the “best chance for a safe process, wherein everyone in the process will have major input into every phase, has demonstrated unparalleled ability to “value-engineer” projects of this scope without sacrificing quality and function.”

Rinderknecht has been operating in Cedar Rapids for more than 130 years and has worked on projects including the Cedar Rapids Municipal Police Facility, the Hall-Perrine Cancer Center and Indian Creek Nature Center, according to the company’s website.

The 55,000-square-foot Dr. Percy and Lileah Harris Public Health and Youth Development Services building at 1019 Seventh St. SE in Cedar Rapids will honor public health, education and civil rights figures Percy and Lileah Harris.

A savings strategy list filed with the county includes more than 40 potential areas for reducing costs, including elimination of items like a proposed green roof, revisions to materials and reductions of some elements like a gym.

“I think when we get done with our value engineering, we’ll have a better price,” Supervisor Jim Houser said.

Before the board’s vote, Supervisor Harris, who has argued a lease-purchase agreement could delay and increase the cost of the project, made a motion to terminate the lease-purchase effort and restart with a more traditional low bid process. Harris was the only supervisor to vote in favor of scrapping the lease-purchase deal.

Following both votes, Harris said he will move forward with the rest of the board.

“The board has decided that lease-purchase is the way to go. I’m certainly not going to be an obstruction and I’m going to, as my job as chair, lead this board through the lease-purchase agreement,” Harris said. “The most important thing right now is to get the building built.”

Linn County’s use of a lease-purchase agreement, which the board has pursued to guarantee a local builder gets the project, has come under fire at the Iowa Statehouse, with a proposed bill aimed at eliminating a county’s ability to sidestep state competitive bidding rules.

However, Supervisor Stacey Walker said the lease-purchase agreement will net the best results for taxpayers.

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“Policy is hard sometimes and change in policy is extremely hard most of the time,” Walker said. “I think it’s important that this board try to set a precedent for sending a message that the whole point of local government is to have some sort of say, some sort of self-determination, as to how we think our community should be organized and operated.”

l Comments: (319) 339-3175; mitchell.schmidt@thegazette.com

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