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Back to the drawing board: Top design firm disappoints

Hubbard County went back to the drawing board on plans to fill the second floor of the Law Enforcement Center. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

Disappointment with a St. Louis Park architect's contract to revamp the upper floor of the jail led Hubbard County commissioners to invite two more firms to submit bids.

Klein McCarthy, the firm that drafted the original space proposal for the county three years ago, was to submit a contract with final numbers and cost breakdowns to the county attorney Monday.

Instead it submitted a contract from a North Dakota job it was bidding on, without the local specifics the county board had requested last week.

"This is not acceptable," board chair Dick Devine said of the bid.

"This is scary," commissioner Lyle Robinson said. "If this is the way we're going to do business..."

And that flawed effort prompted commissioners to draw a line in the sand.

Klein McCarthy, BKV Group and VKA, Inc., both of Minneapolis, will now be asked to come up with a plan costing no more than $800,000 to move Social Services above the jail, design a new public façade and design a corridor to the courthouse for caseworkers to get to court without going outside to that adjacent building.

Klein McCarthy has initially proposed a $1.2 million project, of which the firm would collect 10 percent to oversee the design.

The county scaled back the scope of the work and requested a construction manager be retained to oversee the project from beginning to end. Commissioners envision breaking the bid packages into smaller units to entice local contractors to do the work.

Commissioner Greg Larson wondered if Klein McCarthy had committed a clerical error in sending the North Dakota contract for review.

"I'm disappointed our project wasn't worth enough for them to send the right document," Devine said.

"We need to keep all our options open," Robinson said. "We just lost a week. It's like we split the project in half but they kept the high price."

The $1.2 million price tag was theoretically to move Social Services, then remodel to fill in the empty space in the now overcrowded county office building.

But that part of the project has been put on a back burner until the Social Services move is completed. Commissioners had hoped that would be accomplished a year from now.

Then the idea is to remodel the main floor into a "one-stop shop" where the public could pay taxes, get a marriage license, get a driver's license and complete many essential services. The upper floors would realign other county offices that need additional space.

But commissioners remained disappointed.

"We gave them a token interview because they did the first project," commissioner Cal Johannsen said of Klein McCarthy. "Are we going to invite somebody else in?"

The county had sent out a Request For Proposal two months ago, which attracted a dozen designers. Of those, five firms were interviewed. Klein McCarthy was the only one invited to submit a final contract for review.

"I'm not riding any horse but I'm very confused," said Devine, whose only wish was for expediency in moving the project along. "This sounds very haphazard to me."

Johannsen wondered if the RFP was too confusing to follow.

The county will ask for final costs and proposals to be submitted by the three firms Feb. 22 and will begin meeting with each firm at 9 a.m. that day.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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