So far the restoration contractors have hauled away 330 tons of debris from Rimrock Auto Arena.
The process of restoring the tornado damaged facility, however, is one that is fraught with unexpected issues needing immediate answers on a daily basis. With that in mind, Yellowstone County Commissioners have decided to set up a daily time in their schedules so that they are available, as need be, to talk with insurance adjusters, contractors, vendors and staff, in a timely manner that keeps things moving along.
One day last week, the issue was the level of insurance the county would require of the successful design firm that will be chosen to advise, design and oversee construction. Some prospective local firms were claiming that the request is too high. A few even suggested that it was a deliberate ploy, in order to eliminate competitors in favor of a preferred company. The issue needed to be addressed immediately in order to keep the “request for proposals” process moving along at the set schedule.
County officials, including County Director of Finance Scott Turner, quizzed their insurance representative, Chris Hoiness, about the resistance they were encountering. Turner asked if they should consider lowering their expectations.
It was upon Hoiness’ recommendation, last week, that the county set the requirement. Hoiness explained that the requirement is not all that unusual for such large projects, and is more important in the reconstruction of a building than in building-new, since there is a higher degree of risk that mistakes can be made or things will go wrong. He did not back off his recommendation. He said it was for the county’s protection and most firms should be able to meet the requirement.
Hoiness said the coverage is expensive - - possibly costing between $70,000 and $250,000, depending upon the carrier, but it is a pass through cost to the county, and the county will be reimbursed by their property insurance carrier. He also assured that there are companies willing to provide the coverage.
Turner said that with those kinds of charges coming at them, he wanted to know that they had a clear answer about why they are requiring the higher level of coverage. County commissioners reaffirmed their original decision.
Such are the kinds of questions and dilemmas that crop up every day, leaving workmen, staff and vendors without direction until they receive answers and direction.
Timing becomes increasingly crucial since work is slowed each time there is a storm. The interior of the arena, which had its roof torn away, has been subjected to some 25 storms since the Father’s Day tornado. Each deluge, forces a repetition in efforts to dry things out and to mitigate mildew, explained County Commissioner Bill Kennedy.
One of the question marks that poses a “Catch 22” is the condition of the auditorium seats. “They were never made to be outdoors,” said Kennedy, in noting that they have now been exposed to numerous rains as well as weeks of ultra violet light. He is dubious that they are salvageable, but the insurance company has to sign off on that.
“I want to hear from an expert,” said Commissioner John Ostlund.
The problem is, no analysis of the seats can be done by anyone until the debris that hangs from the roof and other protuberances can be removed. Every storm causes more of it to drop. Being beneath it is dangerous.
“A lot of stuff has dropped on the telescopic seats,” said Kennedy, “they have taken a lot of hits.”
Removing the stuff from the roof, however, is being done in a very slow and cautious way, so as to minimize stuff falling onto the seats which could damage them, in case they are still salvageable. Work could go much faster if they knew for certain that the seats are not worth worrying about. And, every day is costing money. “The guy on the roof shouldn’t have to worry about seats,” said Kennedy.
Said Hoiness, “The carrier made it clear that we have to button up the roof quickly.” He agreed that the seats seem to have some major damage, but an assessment requires looking at each seat, individually.
There was some question about the possibility of placing temporary roofing. Is that possible? Could it be done without causing further damage? “What’s the point? The damage has already been done.” “That horse has already left the barn.”
That is the kind of issue that a design consultant could help answer, said Hoiness, that’s why it is so important to get an RFP out as soon as possible. The plan is to be able to select a lead firm by about July 20 or 21.
And, then people are saying we should slow down, said Kennedy. Kennedy said that there seems to be an idea among many people, that the county will just receive a check from the insurance company, with which they can go forward and rebuild as they choose. That’s not how it works.
The insurance company will replace what was there – that’s all. They will pay the full cost of replacement without considering depreciation factors, unless the decision is not to replace something, and then they will pay cash for it at its depreciated value.
Ostlund worried that insurance would not cover all the cost of meeting building code upgrades in the process of rebuilding. There are substantial upgrades since 1976, when the building was built.
Hoiness said that the insurance would cover up to $1 million in upgrade costs. The insurance will not, however, cover any enhancements to the structure. While there is likely to be a desire to do some – there always is in such projects, said Hoiness, the county will have to pay for them. Hoiness said that “public comment” will change the scope of the project – just as it did for the Huntley Project School.
There emerged also the issue of bonding. The firm chosen to oversee the project should have the capacity to be bonded over $15 million, said Shane Swandal of Hulteng Construction, the consulting construction firm hired by the county. While $15 million is a working estimate of what rebuilding may cost, there is every possibility it could exceed that.
Any “betterments” would push it over that figure. Or, said consultant Eric Hulteng, if they discover that they have to do something like “knock a wall out,” that could add an additional cost of $4.5 million. Those kinds of problems “aren’t identifiable upfront.”
“That creates a problem, too,” said Ostlund, “in establishing a time limit. There is no way of knowing in advance how long it will take.” He added, that they didn’t want to impose a lot of restrictions. “You can’t put them in a box. You want to allow them to be creative.”
Turner asked too about the issue of keeping a company’s bonding capacity confidential. He said that the RFP asks for companies to submit their bonding capacity in a separate envelope that will only be unsealed if the firm is selected, but there is a desire among the companies that that should be kept confidential.
Commissioners concluded that public information laws make that impossible, for the winning bidder. They will just have to accept that, they said.
Turner said that a selection committee will rank the proposals, so that if the county commissioners cannot negotiate satisfactory terms with the first, they can proceed to the next. The commissioners will make the final selection.
Kennedy said that he wanted the selection committee to be made up of independent, neutral third parties, including at least one individual from outside the county.
Almost 500 public comments have been received through the MetraPark website and there has been a lot of interest in finding out what the public is saying. Since the MetraPark website is a system separate from that of the county’s, there was concern about whether those comments could be made available, and if so if there would be a cost involved in adapting the technology. But, Sandra Hawke, who oversees the website for MetraPark, reported to commissioners that she could make all 500 comments available to anyone requesting them, by email.
Most of them recommend that they improve the acoustics, said Ostlund.
It was mentioned in the course of the meeting that Metra Park Operations Director Ed Larsen, has resigned. Jeff Seward, event coordinator, will step up to assume his role in the interim of finding a replacement.
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