MITCHELL COUNTY COMMISSIONERS – Monday, September 11, 2023


By Terry Bailey

Stewart Porter, Engineer for Schwab-Eaton Engineering Firm, stopped by the weekly County Commissioners meeting Monday morning to discuss unexpected situations with the construction of the new County Shop building. During last week's meeting, questions arose about construction issues. Porter was on hand Monday to explain things to the degree he was possible.
In the construction of the building there were a few slight necessary changes that added to the final cost of the project. By themselves they were minor, but all together they were noticeable. The "straw that broke the camel's back" was an excessive moisture situation with the shop floor that cost an extra $23,000.
Part of the issue was money but, isn't it always about the money. Other significant questions centered around why these problems were allowed to pass by the architect and the project engineers.
Porter responded to the moisture barrier question saying, "The architect felt because of the significantly dry climate of Beloit, a moisture barrier would not be necessary."
Porter acknowledge that was a significant amount, but the full-scale price for such work was around $35,000. Whether it was a bargain or not depends on how you look at it.
Jim Marshall responded, "I think she (the Agora architect) dropped the ball."
Porter answered, "It seemed to be a common understanding that in the name of cost, it was intended to be a project with minimal architectural services. A full-bore service would have added $169,000 to the job. I did not think the County ever intended for that type of close oversight."
Porter went on to say, "It was our understanding that the Contractor was competent to do what needed to be done without engineers and architects breathing down his neck. Perhaps we were all mistaken."
The Commissioners gave Public Works Superintendent Marty Hernandez credit for catching numerous smaller discrepancies and taking care of them before they ended up as significant issues.
The situation seemed to boil down to the old adage, "You cannot have your cake and eat it too."
It appears the Commissioners would have liked to have had closer oversight by the architect and the engineers but wanted to keep those kinds of costs to a minimum. Plus, there was some unclarity regarding exactly how closely the Commissioners wanted the engineers and architects to "guard the hen house." Finally, it seems as if the governing body overestimated the skills of the contractor.
This issue is notable with plans being made to construct a new senior center on the North Campus with a price tag of over four million dollars. It is expected that Agora Architects and Schwab-Eaton will be on hand for this job also. This might prove to be a very profitable discussion.
Cortney Murrow, Mitchell County Health Nurse, was on hand to have the Commissioners sign contacts allowing the Mitchell County Health Department to provide nutrition educational services for WIC recipients in Jewell and Ottawa County.
Murrow and Jesse Benedict then made themselves available to discuss the new ADA compliant parking lot at the Health Department on West 8th Street.
When asked by the Commissioners about the blueprints provided by J. Brummer, LLC the sole bidder for the job, Benedick responded, "Everything checks out."
While the job was bid in two parcels, the Commissioners decided to do the work all at the same time.
The cost of the entire project is $193,843.97. Murrow said she had grant money in the amount of $47,000 to put toward the cost of the project. Schwab-Eaton will be paid $36,000 for engineering fees. No new county money will be expended on this project.
Murrow said the annual Health Fair will be conducted from October 9th to October 13th from 6:30 a.m. until 12 noon each day. On October 9, 10, 11, 12 the Health Fair will be conducted at the Health Department. On October 13 the Fair will take place in the Conference Room at the Technical College.
The Commissioners announced that even with a few rains lately, the county-wide ban on outside burning is still in effect.
Rural Fire Districts #1, #2, and #3 have proposed budgets for 2024 that slightly exceed the revenue neutral rate. This necessitates holding a public hearing allowing taxpayers to appear and question the budget. The current mil rate for Fire District #1 is 4.020 and the new rate is 4.086. The mill rate for Fire District #2 is 1.195 and the rate is 1.488. The mil rate for Fire District #3 is 1.62 and the new rate is 2.566.
Nobody appeared to speak for or against the proposed new budgets. The proposed budgets were accepted as printed.
At 10 a.m. the hearing for the 2024 proposed budget for Mitchell County was opened. The assessed evaluation of Mitchell County is $20,214,233.
David Porter was in attendance and had a few direct questions to ask of the Commissioners. It appeared as if Porter's questions were satisfactorily answered.
No other individuals appeared to speak for or against the proposed 2024 budget The Commissioners then unanimously approved the proposed budget.
Having addressed all items on the printed agenda, the meeting was adjourned.