Commission keeps building project moving forward but on a split vote

Updated: Dec 30, 2021

MOUND CITY – Problems in the supply chain have meant shortages and cost increases for consumers and businesses alike. However, on Monday the Linn County Commission found out that because of shortages, walk-in coolers and freezers for the new jail would cost $7,800 more that originally bid.

And that was one of several increases in the cost of the building that Commissioner Jim Johnson wouldn’t support.

At the end of River City Construction Manager Warren Mooney’s building progress report at the Dec. 6 meeting, Johnson asked if materials were still on schedule for the building.

Mooney said that there was nothing that he was aware of that was going to be late, however, he said that he did talk over a concern with Linn County Counselor Gary Thompson about the $7,800 price increase on coolers and freezers.

Mooney noted that the delivery on those units was still set for Jan. 25, and would work with the company’s construction schedule.

Johnson asked why the price had increased, and he pointed out that the county had not changed anything.

Mooney explained that, like news reports on television said, problems with the supply chain were creating shortages and price increases.

The coolers are from a manufacturer named Kolpak, which operates under a parent company called Welbilt. He said that he was waiting on a letter from the parent company saying that they had a nationwide price increase.

He said that he had told them he was not going to accept any change if the coolers were going to show up in April or May.

Since Welbilt said it could get the coolers and freezers in time for this building, Mooney said he was going to weigh on that it is nationwide. He said he felt fortunate that, to date, the justice center project has not really been impacted by supply shortages.

The contractor did have another price increase from the electrician several months ago, he said, but a representative from Apple Electric said that the company would void any price increase.

The first motion that Johnson voted against was an authorization for Thompson to tell the architect to make the order for furniture, fixtures, and equipment (FFE) for the justice building for about $454,000.

Thompson explained that this FFE was for items that had been pulled out of the contract and by ordering it directly, the county would be saving around $61,000 over the original project estimate.

Johnson was again the sole vote against a change order that added a 220-volt circuit in the equipment room, added two hydrants on the roof of the jail for maintenance purposes, changed the low-voltage power supply for the water management system on the back of the cells, changed to a two-piece roof flashing where there was a transition from a wall to a shed roof, and relocation of the controls behind the cells down to eye level so they are easier to access.

Thompson said the total of the change order was about $17,500. The funds will come out of the contingency which, after this change order, will leave a balance of more than $211,000.

Johnson said that these were design issues and should have been recognized by the designer. Thompson agreed that it should have been anticipated by the designer. According to Thompson in a phone interview, some of these changes in design were made to make maintenance easier for the county.

Commission Chair Rick James said for someone that has built 300 jails, he didn’t know how the architect could leave the low-voltage power supply out.

Thompson said that he was not defending the architect but that they had a low-voltage set up but it was an individual one for each unit.

James said there was another potential change order that had four things on it that the commissioners all said no to in our meeting, which apparently meant the executive session meeting.

After the vote, Commissioner Danny McCullough pointed out that the majority of the items in the change order had already been talked about prior to this meeting and had already been scheduled.

In a later interview, Johnson said that he had voted no on the FFE motion because it was misleading. The cost of the jail was going over and above the $19 million that was quoted to the public.

On the change order, he said that the architects are supposed to be the experts and why should the taxpayers be charged more when they do not design something correctly.

In the phone interview, Thompson said that Johnson was not yet in office when the decisions were made to take the FFE out of the contractors bid. The county was doing everything it could to keep the contract at the price the voters approved for sales tax.

However, the county made clear at that time that it was going to spend $3 million in addition to the sales tax revenue, Thompson said.

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