Inflation hits construction budget

This could be the final year holiday décor is displayed at Barron City Hall at 1456 La Salle Ave. The City intends to sell the property to Kwik Trip for a new store and relocate to new buildings. But bids for a new municipal center and public works building have come in over budget, complicating the City’s final decision. See story page 1A

Bids for two new City of Barron buildings have come in 10 percent over budget.

The bids were presented at a special City Council meeting Monday, Nov. 29, by project manager Market & Johnson.

No action was taken in regards to accepting or not accepting bids. But the Council extended deadlines to Jan. 31, 2022, on a related project—an agreement with Kwik Trip to sell and vacate the current municipal center for the construction of a new gas station and convenience store.

In vacating the property at the corner of Hwy. 8 and La Salle Avenue, the City is planning to build a new municipal center and police department downtown and a new public works shop on East Taylor Avenue next to the Barron County Highway Shop.

The City must now decide whether to move forward over-budget or delay or cancel those plans.

At Monday’s meeting Kwik Trip representative Scott Teigen told the Council that the company would accept whatever decision the City makes.

“If you can the whole deal, we’ll walk away,” said Teigen. “But we won’t sue to the City. We’ll be cooperative and work with you.”

The budget for the municipal center was $1.9 million, but bids totaled $2.1 million. For the public works shop, the budget was less than $2.1 million, but bids totaled more than $2.3 million.

Brad Kemis, of Market & Johnson, said the increased cost was typical of current construction trends.

“Both projects went up 10 percent since last budgeted, which is very consistent with where the market is at,” he said.

Kemis said a driving factor in higher prices is pre-cast concrete and steel, which are in high demand.

“Anything to do with steel has gone up 35 percent this year,” he said.

Kemis said structural steel is going primarily to building warehouses, mentioning Amazon as a big reason for that.

“We’re not seeing any signs of steel prices going down any time soon,” said Kemis.

Bid documents also showed over-budget bids for carpentry, electrical work, plumbing, flooring and roofing.

Kemis said there could be delays for some materials. For example, windows may take 14 weeks to arrive.

Kemis said costs could increase if the project is delayed, and work carries into the winter of 2022-2023. He said the current timeline is to complete the buildings during the 2022 construction season.

The project, which was initially planned to start as soon as this year, has been delayed before as the City struggled to find a suitable site for the public works building. The downtown site at La Salle Avenue and Fifth Street proved too small to accommodate all city departments. The City industrial park on Guy Avenue was also considered for a public works building before the City decided on East Taylor Avenue.

City officials indicated they would take time to consider the budget numbers and revisit the issue at their next meeting. The next regular City Council meeting is Tuesday, Dec. 14.