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County gets loan approval, prepares to call for building bids

Posted 2/09/16 (Tue)

County gets loan approval, prepares to call for building bids

By Cecile Krimm
The financing is now approved and a call for bids will be going out in March on the construction of an addition at the Divide County Courthouse.
Commissioners reviewed the loan approval from the Bank of North Dakota at a meeting held Tuesday last week. The approval is for a $7.5 million loan toward the $10.5 million project, with $3 million coming from funds already earmarked for the project. 
The low interest loan, commissioners said, will be variable, but at a very low rate -- currently about 1.75 percent. The rate cannot increase more than one percent per year.
They expect to sign the official loan documents at their next regular meeting.
The county will pay no interest on the 11.5 year loan until construction is concluded, leaving 10 years to pay interest.
With payments expected of approximately $750,000 per year, a monthly payment will be in the neighborhood of $75,000 per month -- a sum commissioners are confident they can cover, even with a downturn in oil and gas production tax income.
Last year the county received, on average, over $500,000 per month in oil and gas income. 
That’s down about $250,000 from the amount collected in 2014.
“Never say never,” quipped Commission Chairman Gerald Brady, but they believe revenue will be more than sufficient going forward, to make the payments.
Even with the amount of money coming in from oil and gas production taxes, said Commissioner Doug Graupe, it’s ironic that four of the five top oil producing counties have had to secure loans to improve their courthouses.
Bid schedule
Commissioners also held a conference call last week with engineers from Klein-McCarthy, involving timing and procedures in the bid process. 
By Feb. 26, commissioners were told, construction documents will be finalized to give bidders the exact specifications they should use in their estimates.
A call for bids will run for three weeks starting March 1, to be placed in The Journal, which is the official county newspaper, and also in one daily, probably Minot. Bids are due March 22.
Engineers said it takes a week or so to verify the bids are all to specifications. On April 5, commissioners will receive a sum from the engineers on what they feel the guaranteed maximum price of the project will be.
Based on the timeline, initial preparation for construction could begin around April 25.
Brady noted that the north side of the courthouse, where the construction will occur, typically has frost well into May.
Engineers said some time will be needed for the removal of some large evergreens in the construction area.
Another key date will be about four months out from bid acceptance. Once the call is placed for the precast walls that form the framework of the addition, the supplier will give an estimated date of delivery.
“So, best case scenario would be August for the precast panels,” said Brady.
Within weeks after that, stated the engineers, the shell of the building will be up. The goal is to have the walls up and roof on by November, for work to continue through the winter.
Engineers said if for some reason the precast company can’t meet the specified time frame there could be alternates who can supply the precast panels.
One expected bidder is in Grand Forks and there are also precast contractors in Montana and South Dakota.
Commissioners have every reason to expect there should be multiple bidders, based on what engineers have said is “more interest” due to the slow down of construction across the oil patch.
Another piece of news involved the analysis of the existing concrete in the original courthouse. 
While there is some damage from moisture, in general the condition was found to be as expected for a 100-year-old building. Waterproofing the exterior of the old courthouse will help prevent any damage and commissioners said it makes  sense to do that on the north side, which will abut the addition, however they may wait to do the rest at a later time.
Graupe said he received information from the city that the street on the west side of the courthouse will not be dug up in a paving project this year. This was good news to engineers because contractors will need to be coming and going on that street throughout the project.
Finally, commissioners settled on a type of brick called “Sahara Sands” from Hebron Brick for use on the face of the addition. While it does not match the current brick exactly, engineers said no source for the original type of brick exists. Commissioners noted that nowhere on the project will the old and new brick meet, so it is not expected to be a noticeable difference.
Engineers said finishes such as tiles and wall coverings will be bid within a certain grade only and it will be fairly late in the process before commissioners actually choose colors or styles for those items.