BY BENJAMIN J. GOHS, NEWS EDITOR
The Boyne City facilities project—to be funded by a $7 million voter-approved millage—now has some solid dates, interior design and clear direction on the bidding process.
At a Thursday Nov. 19 special work session, Boyne City Manager Michael Cain said the engineers working on the project—which include Ray Kendra of Environment Architects as well as staff from C2AE—are at approximately the 50 percent stage of the design process.
“The good news is there’s not been a lot of plan changes. It’s really been more of a developmental type of approach as we’re working through details—the structural, mechanical,” Kendra told commissioners during last week’s work session. “So, fundamentally, the building has really not changed as we’ve been moving through the process over the last several months from some of our earlier meetings and renditions. So, conceptually, the footprint is the same.”
Cain said he called the meeting because he felt it was time for the public and the Boyne City Commission to receive an update on the progress of the planning process for the Boyne City facilities project, which will result in a new city hall, EMS, police and fire facilities all on one campus at the current city hall location of 319 North Lake St.
Kendra said the site plan has a bit of a change which was made to primarily be more efficient with parking and to maximize green space.
“The key thing that we have to do is we’re going to keep the DPW building up so that the fire department is maintained during construction,” he said. “So, as always planned, we’ll be building the new facility. As soon as that’s completed, the fire department will move over, vacate the DPW building—and whoever else might be operating out of the DPW building—and then that final phase will take place.”
Kendra said a “fair” amount of site work is going to have to take place after the building is completed.
Kendra said work on North Street must be carefully coordinated because the primary public parking area is being designated along North Street.
Emergency vehicle parking is segregated from public parking. And, all emergency vehicle traffic has been eliminated from North Street.
There will also be a staff-only parking lot at the new city hall facilities.
Heated sidewalks and heated aprons will be installed around the fire department bays, staff entryways and the general public parking access.
There will also be a drop-box area in a small island intended to calm traffic and improve the flow of vehicles.
Boyne City Commissioner Laura Sansom said she likes the addition of the green space and less of a parking lot look.
Boyne City Mayor Tom Neidhamer asked which direction emergency police traffic has for exiting the facility. Cain said they can exit in either direction.
“A lot of it will depend on what the situation is, what is going on in the park; things of that nature,” Cain said. “We always want to make sure, when there is a major event going on in the park, that they can exit directly to the north and go off to Lake Street.”
Neidhamer asked about the number of parking spaces. Kendra said the number is similar but there will be fewer spaces.
Boyne City Commissioner Hugh Conklin asked if the parking lot near the ball field at Veterans Park needs to remain or whether it could be turned into green space.
Kendra said that parking lot really only services the ball field, and that it could be turned into green space if the commission desired it.
Cain said that parking lot gets a fair amount of use and is in good shape, as it was constructed in recent years.
The general consensus was that the lot could be left as is and changed later.
“Would it be possible to create, maybe, an alternate where you do something behind the ball field there to the lake and you clean that up and then maybe you have a loop that goes to that parking lot, if that’s important, and get rid of the long strip so you still have that green space?” said Conklin.
Kendra said there should be more thought put into the piece because no one has spent any real time thinking about.
Cain said he felt that parking area should be a separate project.
Cain asked Kendra how he envisioned bidding to proceed and whether it would be a “lump sum” project or done “per unit.”
Kendra said the city can specify how it puts the project up to contractors.
Kendra was asked about the power system for the heated sidewalks. He said they would likely be gas-fired boilers because they are much cheaper to operate than those which run on electricity.
Kendra was asked if the plans included electric car charging stations. Kendra said those had not been requested.
Conklin brought up the ball field matter again, expressing concern that the project should be looked at as a whole rather than individual pieces.
“I think that, at some point in the near future, it would be a good thing to look at,” said Kendra, who added that there may be some items which are fixed.
Neidhamer said the directive from the beginning of the project was not to make any changes to the ball field area.
“We’re really trying to focus—I feel—this development as close on Lake Street as possible so it really doesn’t effect the body of the park per se,” Kendra said…. “The waterfront is its own entity that deserves some additional thought.”
Cain agreed with Conklin that the project needs to be viewed as a whole.
“I don’t think anything that is being proposed here … are incompatible with any of the other versions that I have seen floating around for any of the other park improvements,” Cain said.
Kendra said there haven’t been any substantial changes to the floor plans from earlier designs.
Earlier this summer, several Boyne City officials met with Kendra to look over projects he has completed in order to get ideas for finish products, to be used in the finish work, the city might like to see.
Polished concrete, which tends to have a long life under foot traffic, and carpeting to help acoustically, will be used on the first floor. There will be more carpeting on the second floor to help reduce noise from foot traffic.
Color coded graphics will be erected to help direct visitors to city hall.
“The plans that we’ve had out for at least six months really have moved inches back and forth as we’re getting materials, finishes,” Kendra said.
City staff has also given input on things like electrical fixtures and cabinetry.
There will be some large steel beams needed in the structure but they will be wrapped in wood to give the interior of city hall a refined cottage feel with elements that hearken back to Boyne’s timbering heritage.
Kendra noted that the colors in the artistic renderings provided are not good representations of what the final color scheme will resemble.
Kendra said the antique city clock and bell saved from the old city hall needs to be fixed in order for it to work. Cost estimates have ranged from $75,000 to $125,000. The funding for that part of the project has not yet been included in the overall price of the project.
Sansom said she would like to see the commissioner tables in the commission chambers to be elevated and fixed as opposed to having movable tables.
Cain said he was torn as to what the commission chambers should consist of. He said the space would be limited if there is a fixed set of commission tables, and that that could limit the use of that space which could otherwise also be used for other public gatherings, weddings and other commissions and committees.
Boyne City Commissioner Ron Grunch asked if there was a contingency for overflow in the main meeting room.
Kendra said with chairs and standing room, there is room for 176 occupants based on square footage and the building code.
By law, public meetings of governmental bodies must provide seating for all attendees.
As the design stands for seated-only attendants, there is room for 82 people.
The consensus was to use movable furniture for commission seating.
The square footage of the proposed building is 36,000-square-feet including the entire facility.
Kendra said the existing city hall facilities is in the neighborhood of 25,000-square-feet including the old DPW building.
Kendra said the new facility is 25 to 30 percent larger in square footage but, because of the improved design, there will be more open views of the lake from the street view.
Conklin asked if space was made for the harbormaster. Cain said an office for the harbormaster, who is also an executive assistant to the city, is planned.
Cain also addressed the MSU Extension office, saying that there are plans to retain office space for them as long as they are willing to remain on the city’s campus.
Conklin asked Kendra if a utility study had been completed. Kendra said the efficiency of utilities and insulation is always looked at to help ensure core utilities are as efficient as possible.
The major area where energy efficiency was not a priority was the fire department storage area, which has large glass doors. These type of doors are insulated glass but they are far less efficient than other doors would be. The upside is that the view is improved.
Conklin asked if the city’s museum will see any type of investment to make it a manned area. Cain said there was no money budgeted for that.
Conklin also addressed the issue of the cost of the new city hall facility.
“I really appreciate the work that you’ve done, Ray, and it’s just beautiful but … is it too nice?” Conklin asked Kendra. “Do we have to be careful about how the community reacts to something like this, being a low to moderate income community?”
He added, “I’m having a hard time trying to get my hands around that. Are there just things that we should be really careful that we’re not sending a message to people that we’re being extravagant or anything like that.”
Kendra said there will be a few nice areas in places like the main lobby but that the back areas will be utilitarian and efficient.
Kendra added that he feels confident the project will come in very close to the budgeted estimates.
“I appreciate where you’re coming from and we try to balance that for sure,” Kendra said.
Regarding bidding out the project, Kendra said there probably are not enough local contractors big enough in size to complete the entire project. But, he said he would like to advertise smaller jobs on the project to allow as many local companies to work on it as possible.
“If we end up with three to five general contractors—which is what I expect—and as part of our bid documents we give them a list of people that they can reach out to and basically give those guys the opportunity to bid the projects because I don’t think that there’s anybody that’s going to be able to pick up a big component of this because all these components are hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Kendra said.
Cain said, in the past, Boyne City has rejected the notion of offering jobs to local companies with any advantages to the local bidders because the city has a responsibility to the taxpayers to make sure the best work for the best price is achieved.
Cain recommended that the city allow “local” companies to put their name on a list which the city will share with the major contractors and let contractors decide to whom they subcontract the work.
“I want to give them all the opportunities that we can … but I wouldn’t recommend that, for this one project, that we change the processes that we’ve done for well over a decade and set up some type of local premium,” Cain said. “I don’t know why we’d change it.”
Kendra suggested excluding Charlevoix from being considered as “local.”
Boyne Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jim Baumann suggested contacting Boyne City and Boyne Falls contractors and asking them if they would be interested in having their name added to the list which will be given to general contractors.
Cain said the issue of whether the city’s facilities project should be left to general contractors or if a construction manager should be brought on to oversee the project.
“It’s a big project but it’s not huge where you need that construction management firm,” said Neidhamer.
Kendra said the argument for construction management is that each part of the project is bid out in packages: fire suppression, framing, mechanical, plumbing, electrical, carpentry, etc.
“What I’ve learned from the partners that started my firm was, I have this many bid packages and that many holes for stuff to fall through,” said Kendra…. “It makes it a lot more complicated.”
The commission’s consensus was to go forward with the project without a construction management company as the city has done with all its other major projects.
Department of Public Works update – Kendra said there was still quite a bit of painting and finish work to be completed though the major work is complete. The final inspections and fire alarm tests were expected by Monday Nov. 23, when final occupancy certification would be awarded.
Kendra said he is still working on ideas for how the pavilion could be added to the city project if the Boyne City Commission desired to do so. Kendra said the idea was not to use city facility millage funds to pay for the project but that it could be advantageous to include the pavilion in the main project.
Grunch said he likes the idea of bidding out the original proposed design, which was estimated at $700,000. He said some of the funds leftover from the new DPW facility could be used to help pay for it.
Cain said the commission should decide whether it is willing to bid the pavilion project with the city facilities project.
Cain said the city cannot legally use the facilities millage moneys for the pavilion. However, the city can use money leftover from the DPW project to help fund the pavilion.
Cain added that the pavilion committee is only looking for approval to explore the possibility.
One member of the public asked if the city facilities were going to be built on the current footprint or, as some have suggested, would the possibility of moving them off the waterfront continue to be explored.
Cain said that meeting was the time when any commissioner wishing to should voice concerns about the location of the city facilities. No such concerns were raised.
A firmer project budget on the facilities improvement plan is expected after the first of the year.
The schedule Jan. 11, 2016 drawings will be released. Then, a mandatory pre-bid meeting will occur Wednesday on Jan. 13 with bids due on Monday Jan. 25.
Bids will be brought to the Boyne City Commission at its Tuesday Feb. 9 meeting.
According to Cain:
• City officials expect the project to last 18 months.
• Officials hope to rent space from Honeywell as temporary offices while construction occurs.
• The fire department will remain in the existing fire hall during construction.
• The EMS personnel will stay in their current location.
• The police may refurbish some of the old DPW space.
• Boyne City Main Street may need space somewhere but that has yet to be determined.