Government

Linn County Supervisors: Rinderknecht will build future public health building

Latest construction estimate comes in at about $28.7 million

This rendering shows the new 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 new 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 — Just one week after Supervisors opened proposals from two contractors for Linn County’s future public health and youth development services building, the board has picked Rinderknecht Associates as their developer.

The Linn County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday voted 4-1, with Supervisor John Harris opposed, 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.

In Rinderknecht’s original proposal, the lump sum project cost had been estimated at $31.1 million. But through value engineering — a process that removes wish-list items like LEED Platinum certification or specific materials — the total construction cost had been reduced to about $28.7 million. However that number doesn’t include additional expenses such as contingencies, public art, furniture, fixtures and equipment, Darrin Gage, Linn County director of policy and administration, said Wednesday.

“We have a trust relationship here with a company that built quite a bit of Cedar Rapids and Linn County and I have every confidence they’re going to do right by the taxpayer."

- Brent Oleson

Linn County Supervisor

Gage said specific changes to the project to bring down the cost to the new estimate will be decided by the board in about 6 weeks.

In the agreement, Rinderknecht will 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.

“We have a trust relationship here with a company that built quite a bit of Cedar Rapids and Linn County and I have every confidence they’re going to do right by the taxpayer,” Supervisor Brent Oleson said. “Today, they are agreeing they can deliver a project for that cost.”

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.

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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.

Harris, who earlier this week made a failed motion to have the board scrap the plan and start over with a standard competitive bidding process, said Wednesday he still had concerns about the cost and potential delays associated with a lease-purchase agreement.

Wednesday’s vote comes amid concerns raised by one of the board’s most staunch critics, County Auditor Joel Miller.

“Scrap this. Let’s start over with the competitive bidding process. Let’s do this right."

- Joel Miller

Linn County Auditor

“Scrap this. Let’s start over with the competitive bidding process. Let’s do this right,” Miller said.

However, Oleson likened Miller’s comments to arguments made against local municipalities’ use of project labor agreements for public building projects following the 2008 flood.

Such agreements, banned by the Iowa Legislature last year, allowed entities to select a local contractor, rather than follow standard competitive bidding practices.

“We heard all the ‘sky is falling’ arguments ... none of those came to fruition,” Oleson said. “This has been a two-year-long process. Some people who don’t have anything to do with it really have come in to throw some stones.”

In response to Linn County’s project, House Study Bill 568, proposed this session, would require public entities to seek competitive bids for construction projects costing more than $100,000 and being built under their control.

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The public health and youth development services building’s total cost also came under scrutiny by Miller.

Calling it a “bait and switch,” Miller questioned why cost estimates for the building had increased from preliminary estimates around $10 million in 2016, when the proposal only included the county’s public health department, to the board’s recent approval of a $31.5 million project limit.

Supervisors have said the project’s earlier estimates came at a time when building specifics were still not fully defined.

Miron Construction, the only other contractor — out of seven total propositioned by the county — to respond to the county’s request for proposals, estimated the project’s lump sum cost at $30.5 million.

While Kleiman Construction did not file a proposal, Chief Executive Mike Glavan last week estimated the project at about $30 million.

“We know that, based on that, that’s really what the cost is to build a building like this,” Supervisor Ben Rogers said.

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

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