City to spend more than $1.5 million for emergency renovations of city hall

The city of Seymour will spend more than $1.5 million to replace the heating and cooling system and make other improvements as part of an emergency renovation project at city hall.

With the temperature forecast to hit 80 degrees next week, city officials are in a race against time to get the work started to beat the heat.

On Thursday, the board of works and safety voted 2-0 to award the project to Harmon Construction of North Vernon. Board member Jim Potts was absent from the meeting.

 

City engineer Bernie Hauersperger with FPBH Inc. said he requested quotes from four different contractors, including two from Seymour, but Harmon was the only one to submit a bid.

“Everyone wanted to bid the project. The problem is the capacity of the firms right now and the ability to get employees in,” Hauersperger said. “They can’t just go out and grab crews if they’re all busy, and there’s an employee crunch right now as you all are aware of.”

Harmon’s bid was for $1.55 million, but Hauersperger said he expects the city will have to invest more to address some other issues he did not include in the project, such as new exterior doors for improved functionality and security.

“I think there’s going to be additional funds needed,” he said. “There may be another $200,000 that could come into this building. I expect to get a lot of change orders.”

Late last month, a chiller in the building went down, causing a water leak and substantial damage to the interior.

A new HVAC system and renovations were supposed to happen in 2017. Most of the heating and cooling equipment in the building is pre-1980s. In late 2016, then-city engineer Nathan Frey said the HVAC system was about 10 years past its useful life cycle.

Hauersperger said a “Band-Aid” has been put on the problem for too long and it’s time to do a major fix. He also suggested the HVAC in the clerk-treasurer’s office may need to be replaced.

“I don’t trust that at all, and I hate to see us do major improvements and still have issues with HVAC just a hallway away,” he said.

He wants the project to be a shining example of a good renovation and something the city will benefit from for many years.

“We’re basically improving the building to make it look new, so we need to go ahead and improve things that may be a little bit outside the scope of what we wanted with the HVAC,” he said.

Hauersperger’s estimated cost for the project was around $1.3 million.

“It’s not a bad quote,” he said of Harmon’s $1.55 million amount. “To get the process moving, I would recommend you accept it and move forward because we need air conditioning next week.”

The only other option the city has is to rebid the project, which will set the work back further, board member Dave Earley said.

Clerk-Treasurer Darrin Boas asked why Hauersperger couldn’t serve as general contractor and the city complete the project in phases with separate bids for each phase.

Hauersperger said with all of his other city projects and other business, he doesn’t have time to oversee the renovation work. He also doesn’t have as many resources available when it comes to subcontractors as large construction firms have, he added.

“The bigger firms can leverage their work a little better than I could,” Hauersperger said.

Earley said if the city wasn’t under such a time crunch to get the work done, he would prefer they break it up and spread it out to potentially lower the cost.

Initially, Mayor Matt Nicholson’s goal was to tackle city hall’s needs at the same time Seymour’s new fire station is being constructed, but that project is still several months out, he said.

“We have some money still available from last year’s capital bond that we can replenish after another bond is issued later this year,” he said.

The new bond will cover the costs of both the fire station and city hall renovations, he said.

In the meantime, Nicholson said steps would be taken to arrange for temporary air conditioning and alternative cooling methods during the renovation.

“While I don’t mind being hot, the other 20 or so employees might not like it,” Nicholson said.

He also agreed with Hauersperger’s thoughts on funding the work.

“I’m good with building in a little extra on the financing side to make sure we cover some change orders for some things that now is the right time to do,” he said.