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Lac du Flambeau considers how to move forward with bidding process

February 18, 2020 by Kayla Houp

The Lac du Flambeau Town Board approved a motion Wednesday, Feb. 12, forwarding revised bids for the town’s fire station expansion project, which includes a 8,000-square foot addition.
At a previous town board meeting Jan. 15, the board opened bids from Angelo Luppino, Huotari Construction, Inc., Scherrer Construction and Nasi 
Construction and forwarded them to project architect Glenn Morrison from Architecture North for review.
All four bids were over the $1.75 million limit approved by the town’s electors in April 2019, with Scherrer’s bid coming in the highest at $2,390,285 and Huotari’s bid coming in the lowest at $1,826,520.
Revised plans were forwarded to the construction companies that had submitted bids. Those new bids were opened and reviewed at the board’s meeting last week.
Prior to the board’s discussion, a letter from Lac du Flambeau resident Bill McCutchin was read to the board by town clerk Nancy Edwards during public comment.
McCutchin was unable to attend the Feb. 12 meeting.
“To obtain the proposed building at the cost established and the approved budgeted amount of $1.75 million is nearly impossible,” McCutchin’s letter read. “A total realistic cost would reach the high end of $2.5 million. To take anything away from the building construction and infrastructure to achieve this amount is almost like giving the fire and ambulance department a vote of no confidence.”
McCutchin further suggested appointing a four-person committee to investigate additional options for the town should the present bids be tabled. 
While four bids were initially opened on Jan. 15, the board opened three revised bids at its meeting Feb. 12 .
The first bid, from Huotari Construction, Inc., came in at $1,677,000; the second, from Angelo Luppino, came in at $1,760,100; and the third, from Nasi Construction, came in at $1,653,500.

Morrison reviewed the items changed in the revised bid, which included the omission of apron heating, flagpoles, exchanging exterior lighting fixtures for the building, and omitting the reroofing of the existing building among other changes.
“Those are the things that we gave up that don’t substantially change anything as far as square footage,” Morrison said. 
“If this holds true, there’s enough in this budget ... there’s enough for the generator, how much were the decorative lights?” town supervisor Chris Mayer asked, referring to the lighting Morrison had exchanged for a less expensive option.
“What about the omission of the reroofing of the old building? You said it was 25 years old,” town supervisor Gloria Cobb said. 
Morrison explained the building had a Duro-Last roof that didn’t leak.
“We’ve never had any problems with it,” town chair Matt Gaulke said.
“Well, just when you say that ... 25 years is 25 years,” Cobb said. 

‘Minutes where seconds count’
“We’re really trying to get this done and our hands are really tied right now, I just want to reflect a little bit on my perspective,” Mayer said. 
Mayer also serves on the Lac du Flambeau Fire and Ambulance Department as the assistant chief.
“We’re trying really hard to make this happen and I’m really reluctant to give up anything, but we’re put in a constraint right now that we didn’t ask for enough money, which I think we could’ve got it if we would’ve asked the electorate for it,” Mayer continued.
Mayer invited Lac du Flambeau Fire and Ambulance Department member Robert Schuman to speak.
“It’s a lot of money, but I see it as an investment, whether it’s $1.7 million or $2 million, whatever it is,” Schuman said. “We’re talking about saving lives, I see it more as an investment.”
Currently, Schuman said the process for responding to calls was lengthened due to space constraints within the station.
“We’re talking minutes in a business where seconds count,” he said. 
Schuman said while he was appreciative of what the department had, it could be better.
“Me seeing this addition, and seeing us able to bring our other ambulance up, and bring everything right here, in town, that’s awesome and that would help not only the taxpayers, but the whole community, the whole area,” Schuman said.
With an improved building, Schuman and Mayer said the building could be a source of pride for the community and the department, and could aid in recruitment.
Lac du Flambeau resident Jim Sommerfeldt agreed with Mayer, saying he felt the electors would have approved an increased amount if it was needed.
“I think they would be really in favor of a totally new building,” Sommerfeldt added. “I think it would help morale for the police, and fire and ambulance department.”

Returning to electors
During deliberation, the board weighed its options on moving forward, including the possibility of building an entirely new fire station on different property.
“I support a new building, I totally see the need for it,” Cobb said. “But I’d like it done right.”
Cobb said she agreed with some of the points McCutchin had raised, saying she didn’t want to put a “Band-Aid on an old building” and potentially having to worry about fixing the building in the future.
Cobb said she would be willing to go back to the community in another elector’s vote.
“The people we entrust in saving our lives, or in saving our homes, shouldn’t have to fumble around in the dark, shouldn’t have to take minutes off of saving someone’s life because stuff needs to be moved around,” Cobb said. “That’s scary, but that’s the reality of it.”
Mayer said he was also in favor of building a new building.
“I don’t want to rain on his parade and stop it, because we’re pretty far along right now. We’ve committed to a lot of things that we’re not going to get our money back, as far as your services,” he said. 
He added he was willing to move forward with the current plans, so long as the integrity of the project was still within the parameters of what was initially sought.
“I don’t want to give things up,” he said. “I don’t think the membership deserves that, I don’t think this community deserves that.”
After more conversation, the board approved a motion that forwarded the bids to Morrison for review with the potential to go to another elector’s meeting to raise the budget limit should the bids not meet what the board feels is right for the community.
“I want it to be done right,” Mayer said. 
Kayla Houp may be reached via email at [email protected].

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