by Terry Rogers
At a special meeting of Milford City Council, bids for the construction off the new police station were presented. Richard Y. Johnson & Son, the project manager for the product, opened bids for the various aspects of the construction on March 22, 2022, and all bids provided were valid for only 30 days, requiring the need for a special meeting. Final bid estimates place the cost of the building at $16,171.916, although the city will only need to borrow $15,366,322, well below the $20 million cap placed on the project by voters.
“I’ll start off here this should be this is a culmination of about six or seven years’ worth of work, coming to the point of awarding bids for the police station,” Mark Whitfield, City Manager, said “I’d like to say it was it’s a bit climatic, but it is thanks to the job that Becker Morgan, as well as our city staff, Mike’s Svaby and Lou Vitola. I’m happy to report that all the bids came in just as Becker Morgan told us they would way back when, so I wish I had a lot of surprises to tell you about but there’s very few surprises.”
According to Mike Svaby, Director of Public Works, the bids were divided into 17 sub-bids based on trades. Svaby stated that the bids needed to be awarded by April 21 in order to be under the 30-day requirement.
“In some cases, you can reach out to vendors and say “Hey, can you extend us another 30 days?” In some economic environments they would,” Svaby said. “Steel is of grave concern as a commodity to us and there’s two elements in this project where steel is upgraded, packed naturally in the framework and raw materials, and also in the mechanical systems. So that accounts for about $4 million worth of the contract. So, we have to keep a close eye on the clock.”
All bids also included five alternates that were bid separately beyond the base bid for the building. These included upgrades to Northeast Fourth Street, Reduction in the rear parking lot, sod for the front of the building, a maintenance building and a high-density filing system. Staff recommended that the sod and maintenance building alternate be declined as it would increase the price of the building significantly. The upgrade of the Northeast Fourth Street, parking changes and the filing system were recommended for approval.
“But the first alternate was the rehab of Northeast Fourth Street and that was an important one to us. We didn’t want to have a new facility shined up and polished looking and have not so great a street so that was one alternate,” Svaby said. “We wanted to review the size of the parking lot in an expanded fashion. We considered putting sod in the front yard. We considered a storage building for the site in addition to the regular police headquarters building. And the last alternate, alternate five was a hybrid city filing system. I’ve seen those in action. They’re very impressive. They’re a thing of the future in as much as it’s still a way to maintain our files, but it’s a technologically advanced piece of equipment.”
Dean Johnson of Richard Y. Johnson and Sons outlined each individual bid and stated who the apparent low bidder was for each portion of the building. The majority of the contractors were local to Kent or Sussex County, Johnson stated. Whitfield explained that there was bond money available that could cover the cost of the maintenance building at a later date with some reconfiguration. City Finance Director Lou Vitola provided details on how the cost of the police station, using conservative figures as far as interest rates, would impact the average homeowner.
“Once we pile on all those costs to get a grand total for the whole project, based on those base bids, less our cash financing, you reach a financing requirement which when you do the math equates to $102 a year or $8.51 a month for the average residential property taxpayer in Milford,” Vitola said, basing the figures on a home valued at $150,000. “You’ll see in the excerpt from publications we put out when you were describing the process and the facility during the referendum and the potential for the debt financing to the community. And what we put out there was that yes, there’s a $20 million limit. But there’s hope the building could be as low as $12.5 million, but most likely in the $15 to $17.5 million range and we’re there.”
Councilman Jason James applauded the work staff had done on the bids for the new station.
“I just want to acknowledge hard work that people put into anything, and I want to acknowledge the mayor also, because when he saw the costs start to escalate, and he knew that the citizens put their trust in us to stay at a certain range,” Councilman James said. “We gave them our word. They voted on a referendum based on what we told them that we could possibly do. And he was determined that we stay within those boundaries, so we did not deceive the taxpayer. I think that’s huge. I think the mayor deserves a lot of credit for standing firm on that. And the staff who in their heart in it, I much appreciate it, Mark and Lou as well as the committee and the Citizens Advisory Committee. Everyone played a very important role for this very important endeavor. And all the work that the chief has taken on being the quasi project manager on this police station. I’m sure you learned a lot about cost of things while you were going through this. And that’s all I wanted to say acknowledge everyone and tell everyone a big thank you for getting this done.”
Councilman Culotta reminded everyone that costs go up in construction every year, but that in the past two years, costs have considerably risen. Mayor Archie Campbell asked if there were any details on how much the school referendum would raise prices. At this time, the district had not filed for permits on the new building and Councilman Mike Boyle pointed out that the information on the potential increase was available from the school district. Mayor Campbell reminded council that the citizens were looking at three tax increases between the police station, the school and the reassessments in Kent and Sussex County. Councilman Culotta pointed out that council could only worry about the police station increase.
“And I always like to disclose and make sure that it’s because people do get confused,” Councilman James said. “It was something my wife asked me. But the city of Milford, City Council, city administration has no weight and no bearing in what the school tax does. That’s done at the district level. The city of Milford does not assess a school tax at all. We have no part of that.”
All but two low bids were approved by council with a vote of 7 to 0 as Councilwoman Katrina Wilson was not present. Councilman James and Councilman Culotta abstained from two votes as they had contracts with the contractors outside of council. The contractors awarded the bids can be found in the City Council Agenda Packets on the city website.
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