County rejects bids on the renovation project

WORTHINGTON — Nobles County commissioners, on a 4-1 vote, rejected Tuesday morning all bids received for a planned renovation of the county’s license center, auditor-treasurer’s office workspace, and recorder’s office workspace.

The action was taken after it was discovered the lowest of four bidders on the project — Visions Group of Tea, South Dakota — misplaced a decimal point, resulting in an under-calculation of approximately $32,500. Visions Group submitted a bid of $104,800, while three other companies submitted bids ranging from roughly $143,000 to $151,000. The bid process did not include electrical costs, which could result in additional county costs of approximately $30,000.

While there was a unanimous vote to reject all bids, a motion to rebid the project passed on a 4-1 vote, with board chairman Justin Ahlers opposing the rebid process.

“Before we bid electrical and go out and rebid this, are we serious about spending this kind of money?” Ahlers asked fellow commissioners. “I think this was sticker shock for all of us. You throw another $30,000 (in electrical) at that; I don’t know where we want to go with this.”

Commissioner Bob Demuth Jr. said the renovation of that office area is “long overdue,” and that there has been discussion about it for many years.

“I don’t want to spend $180,000 right now, but the license center is an issue,” added Commissioner Donald Linssen. “It’s not going to get any cheaper, I’m afraid.”

The proposed renovation work will include security upgrades, handicap-accessible counters and a reconfiguration of workspace.

Auditor-Treasurer Joyce Jacobs said the engineered plans for the space “will work well for all three departments.”

With COVID-19, Jacobs said, “We need to protect ourselves, as well as our customers coming in.”

“As a department head, I need to figure out what to do in my department,” Jacobs said, adding that all existing furniture will be reused in the renovated space.

Recorder Thelma Yager said the improvements will help her staff work more efficiently.

Commissioner Matt Widboom was critical of making improvements to one area of the building when there are other areas in need of them as well.

“Three years ago we had our first meeting to look at this building,” Widboom said. “We haven’t made a plan to do anything. I don’t like the idea of segmenting off and doing part of a project.”

He also said it wasn’t fair to knowingly not address the problem in the Government Center’s second-floor space.

The County administration was directed to reject the bids and work on a proposal for a new bid process.

In other action, the board:

  • Authorized the purchase of a new three-quarter-ton pickup, as well as a new shop truck, for the public works department. The pickup has a net cost of $33,443, while the shop truck’s net cost is $97,400, which would be funded from public works reserves. Meanwhile, the existing service truck will be transferred to the building maintenance department.
  • Approved the purchase of a Kubota mower leased this year from Jaycox Equipment. The one-year lease cost the county $2,000, and purchasing the unit will now cost $9,750. The mower will be purchased with building fund reserves.
  • Approved a new roof-top air conditioning system for the Prairie Justice Center data room at a cost of $32,248. This was not budgeted in the county’s capital improvement bond, so the funds will come from building fund reserves.
  • Approved filling the following positions: a deputy sheriff due to the resignation of Sgt. Lonnie Roloff; a facility maintenance technician due to a promotion; an accounting technician for the Community Services department due to a resignation; and a registered nursing position for Community Services to fill a vacancy previously advertised as a Public Health Nurse.
  • Approved spending up to $19,500 in county CARES Act funds to equip the public health department with a Portacount machine to fit-test individuals to make sure they have the right size and type of N95 mask, fund a one-time cost for mask usage questionnaires, purchase portable sneeze guards to install in community services interview rooms, and to prepare for community vaccination events for both seasonal flu and COVID-19, once a vaccine becomes available for the novel coronavirus.
  • Approved Lincoln-Pipestone Rural Water’s plans to refund two previous general obligation bonds, which will result in a savings of more than $1.5 million. A sale date for the new bonds will be 10:30 a.m. Nov. 16.
  • Established a $50 annual license fee for club on-sale retail liquor establishments. The fee was created as a result of an application from Aaron and Kia Nystrom to operate Nystrom Orchard Tasting Club at their Bigelow Township business. Commissioners approved, on a 4-1 vote with Linssen opposed, a one-year license for the tasting club. Linssen also opposed the $50 fee, saying there wasn’t enough information provided to set a proper fee for these types of establishments.
  • Authorized Jacobs to pursue up to four possible options to properly staff the department with temporary positions during the election process.
  • Approved a Joint Powers Agreement between Nobles County and the cities of Worthington and Lismore to administer the CARES Act fund distribution.
  • Moved to keep the county’s health insurance contribution for employees at $1,000 per month. Approximately 170 county employees are on the county’s insurance plan.
  • Approved three-year snow removal service contracts with the cities of Wilmont and Lismore, as well as Leota Township.
  • Reappointed Francis Engels, Janice Moen, and Brent Feikema to the Lincoln-Pipestone Rural Water board of directors.