Government

Linn County reduces public health building cost by $2.5 million

The building's size and programming unchanged

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 — Linn County officials say they’ve identified nearly $2.5 million in savings on the county’s future public health and youth development services building — without sacrificing the building’s size or desired programming.

Through a process called value engineering — which included input from county supervisors and staff, as well as officials with the project’s design company OPN Architects and chosen contractor Rinderknecht Associates — design elements including materials, landscaping and mechanical and electrical features were tweaked for the Dr. Percy and Lileah Harris Public Health and Youth Development Services building.

“It’s not necessarily just cost-savings, it’s finding ways to retain what you are trying to do with the project in a more economical, efficient manner ... it wasn’t just a few big things that we looked at, we looked at everything,” James Meier-Gast, an associate with OPN Architects, said during a Monday work session.

The Linn County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday approved a resolution to reduce the project’s lump sum price from Rinderknecht’s original estimate of $31.1 million to about $28.6 million.

Some changes include relocating the building’s utilities, using alternative materials for flooring and ceiling panels and eliminating original plans for a solar-heated water supply on the building’s roof.

Most changes will not be noticeable to the general public, officials said.

While it’s expected the building’s LEED certification could drop from Platinum status to Gold, many sustainable elements remain, including a green roof.

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.

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Rinderknecht President Scott Friauf said a groundbreaking for the building is scheduled for May 18, with construction beginning May 21.

The hope is to have the building enclosed by winter to allow interior work during the colder months, he added.

Friauf said substantial completion should be reached by next October, with the project completely done in November 2019.

The board earlier this year entered into a lease-purchase agreement not to exceed $31.5 million — to be paid by the county with general obligation bonds for urban renewal — with Rinderknecht, who will build the project and the county buying it when completed. The contractor assumes any risk associated with the construction process.

Linn County’s use of a lease-purchase agreement to guarantee the project went to a local developer raised concerns among some state lawmakers and builder organizations, who argued the effort sidestepped state competitive bidding rules.

In response, Gov. Kim Reynolds earlier this month signed into law a bill that requires public bodies — cities, counties and state government, including the Board of Regents — to go through a competitive bidding process before awarding contracts for public projects, including lease-purchase arrangements.

But while some have criticized the county’s use of a lease-purchase agreement rather than standard competitive bidding, Darrin Gage, Linn County director of policy and administration, said the process — including the value engineering aspect — allowed for the best possible price.

“This process does not happen with low bid,” he said.

l Comments: (319) 398-8309; mitchell.schmidt@thegazette.com

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