August 18, 2023 at 12:27 p.m.
Budget discussions conclude Lindstrom fire hall not to completion point yet
The Lindstrom Council met last week for a special budgeting workshop session and the agenda included an agreement amending terms with the contractor on the fire hall project.
Occupation of the new fire facility has been stalled-out as reported supply chain issues, change orders and punch list construction hurdles delay occupancy.
Firefighters were looking forward to moving gear and equipment into the new building— out of the aging obsolete fire station on Highway 8— in time for the annual Karl Oskar Days festivities, under earlier timetables.
This move-in date became August and now activating the new fire station could be significantly delayed.
The two-hour plus session August 8, ended with no action on the Rochon Corp change order for the fire station. The vote was to get it onto the council meeting agenda August 17 (tonight.)
The debate over action is tied to the city maintaining leverage regarding questions about the work performed on the project. Council member Brian Norelius said if the city accepts the offer to address only part of what he feels is the extent of problems — the city loses clout and will end up covering expenses later.
Norelius called for a soil analysis and report from a testing firm on the concrete work, before any deal is struck. If the fire department moves in and later the city finds the concrete pads must be re-done, the fire operations will need to move out. The concept of doing a few square feet of pads, so the trucks can still maneuver in and out, would be unacceptable, Norelius stated. The concrete is all-in, as a project if the tests come back subpar.
He said he would rather see the fire station occupancy delayed another year and get this project all wrapped up correctly, than move in too soon.
City Administrator Dan Undem explained the plan is to have two tracks concurrently— getting the department access to this new site (by fixing Akerson) and addressing pending construction disputes on their own track.
Norelius continued, adding he has never gotten a direct response on his inquiries about elevations. He wants data showing the building and site topography are where they’re supposed to be. This is impacting stormwater (Akerson) issues, he noted.
Either way the city administrator and engineer are proposing to correct drainage issues onto and around the Akerson and Newlander, right-of-way. This is a Lindstrom cost of $47,286, according to a quote from Bluhm Construction. Council was advised this “restoration” work on Akerson Street was not included in the fire station’s original scope of work. The (tabled) agreement however, eliminates $11,000 of what the city would have paid Rochon for wear course paving and compaction for subgrade correction work, (estimated at $8,000 and $2,400 respectively by Rochon. )
Budget hike planned
The budget was gone over with Council member Greg Krueger absent. But, the final preliminary numbers don’t have to be adopted for weeks and administrator Dan Undem advised council the awaited 10-year fiscal plan should be ready for presentation in early September.
The budget is proposed at a nearly 14 percent increase. The city plans to spend $4.1 million in the 2024 General Fund compared to $3.6 million in 2023.
With many council members new to government budget-setting there was lengthy discussion about how one area going up or down in revenue affects another and adjustments need to be considered carefully.
City Administrator Undem said the “main driver” for the hike is streets. There’s an additional $300,000 proposed for public works in addition to the $180,000 Lindstrom qualifies for now for state aid streets. General Government is shown at a $64,000 hike and Public Safety has the police line item up $96,669. A chunk of this goes to an architectural fund being built for developing the proposed new law enforcement facility, which is still being questioned. Mayor Judy Chartrand said Lindstrom “owes” the police commission and Chisago City a response regarding the future of this project. She, Council member David Waldoch and Norelius expressed their hesitations about aspects of the policing 50-50 contract, and feasibility of completing this anticipated $9 million project. Council member Linda Merkel asked to see more budget details.