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Ellsworth Council votes to build new city hall; construction to begin soon

In a special meeting of the Ellsworth City Council Monday night, council members also rejected the bids for a new city shop. The city will work with its architect to reduce costs on the shop's construction, with intentions to rebid the project in 30 days. In addition, the council rejected the bids on a proposed community/rec center. The bids gave them an idea of costs, and they are pursuing bonding money from the Minnesota Legislature in 2020. A capital campaign is also planned.

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This artist rendering of the new Ellsworth City Hall is shown. (Special to The Globe)

ELLSWORTH — The Ellsworth City Council voted 2-1 to move forward with plans to construct a new city hall during a special Monday night meeting at the Ellsworth Fire Hall.

In the absence of Mayor Tasha Domeyer, and with acting mayor Larry DeBeer not casting a vote, Councilman Paul Snyder and Councilwoman Colette Smythe voted to award the contract to Swift Contractors of Sioux Falls, S.D. Councilman Richard Gaul’s indecision was counted as a ‘no’ vote.

Swift Contractors was the lowest of eight bidders on the project, at $874,000. The engineer’s estimate for the project was $1.1 million.

The new city hall will be constructed on the same Broadway Street site where the 116-year-old building that housed the city hall and shop had stood until it was destroyed by fire in January. Construction on the new city hall is anticipated to begin within the next 10 days.

The city also sought bids for a new city shop, to be located near the Ellsworth Fire Hall. Eight bids were also received for the new shop, but the lowest bid, at $419,000, was 24% higher than the engineer’s estimate.

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The council voted unanimously to reject those bids and will work closely with Jeff Nelson, president of Falls Architecture Studio, Sioux Falls, to cut costs and rebid the project. The goal is to have the new specifications completed for rebidding in 30 days.

Snyder asked why the bids for the shop came in so much higher than the bids for the city hall, per square foot.

“I think the city hall bid came in very good — I was very pleased with that,” he said.

Nelson said part of the reason for the higher bids was the required specifications, due to vehicle weights, for the shop’s concrete floor.

In talking with three of the bidders on the shop project, Nelson said ways were found to cut $40,000 to $50,000 from the project. A large chunk of that money could be saved just by selecting a different type of window. Switching to a pre-manufactured wood frame could also save several thousands of dollars, Nelson said.

“I told them I wanted to take $100,000 out,” he told the council. “We could get halfway there, but getting more out would be difficult.

“We looked at everything — gauge of metal, the roof, framing. One even looked at insulation in the wall,” Nelson said.

A third project, bid as an alternate with the new city hall, was a community/rec center to be attached to the city hall. Those bids were also rejected Monday night, as the city doesn’t have the funds yet. By bidding the project, the city has an idea of what it will cost to build the community center.

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While the city is seeking $1.3 million in bonding from the Minnesota Legislature in 2020, a community campaign is also planned. That campaign is being spearheaded by local resident Rhonda Groen.

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