Council, EDA guide architects on components to carry forward
Months’ worth of ideas, concepts and dreams regarding the city’s new municipal campus have made their way onto paper. The Forest Lake City Council and Economic Development Authority met jointly Monday night to review preliminary designs and provide direction on several details.
The project’s scope and design will be shaped by many more meetings and discussions, but architects are reaching the point where they need answers to some big-picture decisions.
Under the microscope Monday were eight such policy questions posed by the city’s building committee for the project. A few centered on optional construction components with set dollar amounts. Others were more general in nature and involved visioning. Roll call votes were not taken but each item was discussed in detail.
The boards lent general support to:
• building out bunk spaces for the fire department
• including seven bays in the fire station rather than building six in a manner in which another could be added later
• providing a crossing of the Hardwood Creek Trail to expedite access for responding firefighters
• outfitting areas of the police department to accommodate a second floor through future expansion if needed
• building the police department garage to accommodate 20 vehicles when the department currently owns 15.
The facility layout presented Monday includes overnight accommodations for up to four firefighters. Chief Gary Sigfrinius noted several metro departments that have recently added sleeping quarters so that they have members ready on hand around the clock. Interested firefighters would pay a modest rent to stay at the station.
The other option would be to save $104,000 by building the space as just a shell that could be used as storage until the city deems it necessary to be finished.
Councilman Mike Freer, a former White Bear Lake fireman, advocated building the fire department accommodations now as a way to reduce response time.
“I don’t necessarily share the same feelings with the chief that we’re going to be going to a full-time unit anytime soon, or even as (Councilwoman Susan Young) said in five years, I don’t see that happening, even part-time. But this is a good, efficient use of the space and it’s very, very cheap to operate,” Freer said.
There was little debate on the trail crossing, as it was a familiar aspect of the project for the board members.
Sigfrinius said the department has been timing routes to the site of the future station. Not allowing firefighters to cut across the trail could add up to 50 percent to the time it takes them to get to the station, he said.
“From the day we started talking about this, the fire department said, ‘This place is OK, as long as we can get across the trail,’” Sigfrinius said.
The initial plan for seven fire department bays was carried through after a lengthy discussion.
Sigfrinius advocated the bunks and the seventh bay in written comments presented to the boards.
“The need for (seven) bays and sleeping quarters evolved from repeated assessments over the last decade,” he wrote. “The question becomes, do we want to build it now or pay considerably more in the future. Satellite stations are so far into the future that I cannot see them. This station will serve the city for the next 40-50 years.”
Police Chief Rick Peterson was up next, and he stressed the need to allow for future growth in his department. Unlike the fire department, a satellite station is not even up for debate, he said, so this facility will need to account for all of the police department’s needs.
“Though there might be three or four office spaces (in the current design) that look like they are open, you have to remember one thing: That we have no plans for a satellite station,” Peterson said. “We’re literally building this for the next 10, 20, 30 and realistically, probably 40 years from now.”
The police department will have a second floor over half of its garage regardless; this discussion centered on reinforcing the other half at a cost of $77,000.
Young called it a “no-brainer.”
There similarly was no opposition voiced to allocating $115,000 to build the police garage to house 20 vehicles rather than 15. In the interim, the extra space could be used as a tactics area or to accommodate other city vehicles.
The council and EDA tabled decisions on the other three discussion points.
One involved spending $155,000 to reinforce a portion of the city hall for extra second-floor occupancy in a manner similar to the police garage. Mayor Chris Johnson suggested holding off discussion since the idea has yet to go before the building committee.
The boards showed less interest in two other elements: the initial design for an expansive public concourse at the city hall’s entrance and a rooftop garden on the city hall.
The “green roof” may be a candidate for inclusion if a sponsor or community fundraiser would take on the estimated $162,000 cost.
Johnson said he envisions more of a rooftop terrace, sans the vegetation, that could connect to the second-floor community room.
The idea of an expansive concourse, though in the initial design, hit a dead end as both Johnson and City Administrator Aaron Parrish said a better alternative would be to expand the community room. That feature was originally planned to be no larger than the council chambers at the current city hall.
The building committee has met five times and trimmed the facility’s original design for 78,000 square feet by more than 12,000. Using the project’s estimate of $200 per square foot, the size reduction has cut approximately $2.6 million off the construction cost. The committee consists of Peterson, Sigfrinius, Johnson, Parrish, Freer and EDA Member Blake Roberts.
A preliminary project cost of $21,383,817 for the municipal campus was presented March 25. That number took a bit of a dive Monday night thanks to a very favorable bid for demolition of the city’s portion of the Northland Mall. The council and EDA were thrilled to hear from City Engineer Ryan Goodman that the low bid came in at about one-third of what the city budgeted.
Goodman assured that he did due diligence on the bid of $71,000 from Urban Companies out of St. Paul. That amount was $27,700 less than the next-lowest bidder and $159,000 less than the engineer’s estimate. Goodman learned that Urban Companies has a history of low bids because it salvages much of the scrap material and sells it.
Also, Goodman said the company’s references checked out. He recommended accepting the bid, and the council and EDA complied. Demolition is scheduled to be completed by the end of June.