Logan County Board refines courthouse restoration procedures and financial processes

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[October 22, 2020] 

On Tuesday, October 6th, the Logan County Board held a special meeting to vote on several action items related to the courthouse restoration.

Action items included:

- A MRTS Contract Amendment

Building and Grounds Chairman David Blankenship had Bill Walter of MRTS clarify the responsibilities of the Construction Technical Committee and the Transition Committee.

Walter wants to make sure there is not any overlap in these committees or supposition of one committee having authority over the other. Walter said he has submitted his suggestions to State’s Attorney Brad Hauge for approval.

Blankenship motioned to approve the contract language subject the state’s attorney’s approval.

- MRTS recommendations regarding the Construction Technical Committee and the Transition Committee

Blankenship’s motion to adopt the Logan County Courthouse Restoration Project responsibility chart for the Tech Committee and the Transition Committee was unanimously approved. Blankenship said these guidelines can be amended down the road if needed.

Financial check and balance system for courthouse expenses

Some items had to do with payments for the restoration related expenses.

With the restoration account payable process, Blankenship said he does not want to be responsible for vouchering payments for the restoration. Since Blankenship is directly working with the construction management firm CTS as well as project management firm MRTS, he feels others should voucher payments.

Blankenship is proposing the Construction Technical Committee review the work and say it has been done. That committee would then make recommendations to the Building and Grounds Committee. The Building and Grounds Committee would then initiate the payment process. Building and Grounds would forward the confirmation onto the Finance Committee for payment approval. Payments would be done through the Finance Committee. This way, Blankenship said he does not have a conflict of interest and there would be more checks and balances.

The board unanimously approved Board Vice Chairman Scott Schaffenacker’s motion to make the Finance Committee responsible for the restoration account payable process.

Dome scaffolding bids were next brought forward. Blankenship said the Construction Technical Committee has recommended securing the services of American Scaffolding Incorporate. The total cost would be $504,830; which includes $305,840 for the over-all project, plus an additional six-month crane and scaffolding rental allowance of $198,990, contingent upon four criteria being met.

Blankenship said first the tech committee recommended the county obtain a current liability and workman’s compensation certificate of insurance. They need to verify the rider’s policy status. The limits will be set by the county board. Blankenship has also requested an engineer’s certified and stamped report to verify the structural integrity of the courthouse. He wants to make sure the courthouse can sustain the load limits.

Before proceeding with the work, Blankenship said they would also need to obtain the engineer’s stamped drawings as related to the scaffolding leg and tie loads.

Additionally, Blankenship said they need an MRTS investigative report on potential savings associated with the extended scaffolding rental.

Walter spoke to American Scaffolding Inc. about a discount on the scaffolding and said the company is willing to give one. Blankenship said initial costs minus the scaffolding rental had been projected at $450,000.

The engineer will need to approve the scaffolding. Blankenship said it may take one to weeks to have the engineer stamp the approval. It would take another ten days to two weeks to begin construction.

Though it may take two weeks to have the engineer stamp the drawing, Walter said he may be meeting with the structural engineer next week about where to place the scaffolding to compensate for the wind, allow for proper support and avoid damage. He said the work may begin sooner than two weeks after that.

Blankenship said there is a need to speed things up with CTS with the dome repair portion of their construction management contract. That way, Blankenship said they could go ahead and secure bids get the dome started as soon as possible to avoid unnecessary scaffolding rental.

Blankenship’s motion to approve American Scaffolding Incorporated at costs of $305,840 and a rental allowance of $198,090 for a total of $504,830 passed unanimously (less scaffolding rental adjustments).

As the restoration gets underway, Blankenship asked about raising the Building and Grounds Committee spending approval limits. If limits are increased, the committee can avoid having emergency meetings. Waiting for approvals could also cause delays. He asked Walter to address how often the limits might be exceeded.

Walter said allowing these approvals would be best protocol for smaller items and vendors approved. After Blankenship had talked to several people, Walter said they decided raising limits makes more sense. That way, Blankenship does not have to take it to the full board for approval.

Based on what Walter has seen in other projects, he said setting a limit of $225,000 to $250,000 for the overall committee would be a workable amount. This amount should satisfy occasions that come up when the spending limit needs to be higher.

Walter asked if Finance Committee Chairman David Hepler could lend eyes and ears plus authority from a financial standpoint to these decisions.

Board member Annette Welch liked the suggestions. If the committee had the higher spending limits, Welch asked about having the authorizations signed off by both Board Chairman Emily Davenport and Hepler. That way there is an extra set of eyes on it.

Blankenship said he supported that idea because he wants plenty of eyes on it.

Initially every project has last minute items that jump up and Walter said that is what they are looking at here. These expenses would likely be frontloaded within the first three or four months. After projects get underway, Walter said everything tends to smooth out.

Welch motioned to raise the Building and Ground Committee’s spending limit to $250,000 specifically to courthouse restoration with the Board Chairman and/or the Finance Committee Chairman signing off on bills. She said the board could avoid waiting longer if decisions could be made at the Building and Grounds Committee meetings.

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Schaffenacker asked how many signatures from board members are needed to sign off. Davenport said six are needed.

Getting the Committee Chairman and Board Chairman plus four other members to sign off on it was Schaffenacker’s suggestion.

Rather than calling an emergency meeting every time, Davenport said it may be better to just have special Building and Grounds Committee meetings.

Since the payments would be made through the Finance Committee, Board Member Bob Sanders asked if these items would go through that committee.

Blankenship said the Building and Grounds Committee would just be authorizing work to occur up to a certain amount. The actual payment would go through Finance. He does not want to have to call the Building and Grounds Committee to order every time he needs approval for authorizing work to be done up to that limit.

As far as the higher spending limits, Blankenship asked Walter how often he envisioned needing them.

Looking at the project, Walter said it is rare that you have six times you need the higher limits. Early on, Walter said these higher limits are likely to be needed three or four times. After that it would be probably be once or twice in the next eighteen months.

Schaffenacker motioned for the spending limits to expire November 30, 2022 and be limited to a maximum of six times in that time frame.

Both the amendment and main motion were unanimously approved.

Next, Blankenship brought forward the MRTS recommendation to increase Building and Grounds Committee chair spending limits. He asked the board to take up the matter for the restoration only.

For Welch, the question was whether this limit was to authorize work or to spend the amount.

Blankenship said the limit is to authorize work up to a certain amount. He does not foresee needing to exceed limits more than six times during the whole restoration project. That would avoid him having to call a Building and Grounds Committee meeting and delaying work until then. He would still present the amounts to the Finance Committee.

Welch motioned to allow the Building and Grounds Chairman an increased spending limit of up to $75,000 per occurrence specific to courthouse restoration no more than six times ending November 30, 2022. It was unanimously approved

Other Building and Grounds Committee updates:

Orr building fiber costs. Blankenship said the bid is $17,630. Having internet might not be necessary for the minimal use of the building. However, Blankenship said it would be beneficial for the construction team to have internet access. CTS has told him they have trouble using hotspots when they are trying to transfer large data such as blueprints.

Having internet access in the building would also allow for livestreaming, which Davenport said would be nice for meetings. Some people have requested that meetings be livestreamed like the city does.

Welch asked if the fiber optic would be a restoration expense.

Since the construction manager and project manager would be using the building, Blankenship said he could see where it could be justified as a construction expense.

Due to being displaced from the courthouse because of covid, Davenport asked if it might fall under covid reimbursable expenses.

The board approved Blankenship’s motion to have fiber optic put in.

The Orr Building would also be set up with mobile videoconferencing. Halpin said it would be a television on a cart. He said most modern televisions will have a USB or HDMI ports with a flat screen.

The television would be utilized at the Orr building. Blankenship said it would be good to get a TV of substantial quality. Once the restoration is complete, the television could then be used at the courthouse.

For protection, Halpin recommended having the television in a special case like the one in the courthouse. That would help when moving the television across the street.

There was a question from Sanders about where the money will come from.

Since the Orr Building is being used during the restoration, Hepler asked whether it could be a restoration expense.

Davenport and Blankenship said the costs could possibly be reimbursed under the CARES (program for covid related expenses) since the Orr Building is being utilized for social distancing.

For the playground equipment that will be put up at Latham Park, Blankenship said the bid for installing equipment is $22,000. Since it is on county property, it is a prevailing wage project. Revenue coming in from a $50,000 donation from one of the wind farms will help cover these costs. Blankenship is hoping to have equipment installed before winter.

Welch asked if the donation could be used to repair the Scully Park fountain.

In response, Blankenship said he believes it could be used for the fountain repair. Davenport said that is what was intended.

The donation is enough to help with both projects.

The board approved the $22,000 bid for Latham playground equipment.

Building and Grounds Committee updates

After the special meeting, a brief meeting of the Logan County Board’s Building and Grounds Committee was held. Several updates were shared by Committee Chairman David Blankenship.

Blankenship said the Courthouse Videoconferencing system has been installed and is working.

The courthouse elevator that was repaired has passed inspection and is now in working order.

Walter has met with a contractor to discuss what is needed for the payment drop boxes.

A lead-based paint inspection has been approved at a cost of $690.

Schaffenacker asked if it was for the whole courthouse.

Samples will be taken from every floor in the courthouse. Blankenship said he is hoping that the quantity of samples are sufficient enough without the need to acquire additional samples.

[Angela Reiners]

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