Grand Forks pushes ahead with Herald building, City Hall renovations

City Hall Snow.jpg
Grand Forks City Hall in the snow on Saturday, Nov. 30. (Adam Kurtz/ Grand Forks Herald)

City leaders plan to contract out some more preliminary work for the city's planned renovations at the Grand Forks Herald building and Grand Forks City Hall.

City Council members voted 6-1 on Monday, Dec. 16, to move forward with the Herald project’s preconstruction via a construction manager at risk, which means a contractor, rather than the city itself, will work with an architect to put together schematics for the two projects and do other preconstruction work within a maximum fee that has yet to be agreed upon.

Council members also voted unanimously to do the same for a planned renovation of Grand Forks City Hall. Both votes mean the city accepted staff members’ recommendation to select PCL/Community Contractors to be the projects’ construction manager and that staff members are set to negotiate a contract with the firm.

The construction manager at-risk, or “CMAR,” approach is different than a well-worn “design, bid, build” model in which the city would solicit bids for design and, later, construction. The city already has a contract with JLG Architects for the master planning and preliminary design of the Herald revamp.

The “DBB” method would mean the city would take on the risk for cost overruns, according to a report prepared by City Administrator Todd Feland. The other method, as the name suggests, means the construction manager does.


But it also means the city is a little more hands-off, which doesn’t sit well with Council President Dana Sande, the lone “nay” vote on the model for the Herald project.

“We’re in a position where we haven’t even had a general conversation about the budget for the project, at least on the City Council level,” Sande said. “My concern is we’re going to be wasting people’s time -- our time and other people’s time -- because we haven’t given any direction on budget .... All sorts of work can go on before it comes to us with a number, and if we say that number’s way too high, we’ve wasted all that time and work.”

Feland and other staffers’ recommendation to the council stipulates that the model -- construction manager at risk or otherwise -- for further phases of the Herald and City Hall renovations would be determined in the future.

City staff circulated a “request for qualifications” for construction management firms in November. That request indicates that city staff expect the total project cost to land between $2 million and $2.5 million.

Joe Bowen is an award-winning reporter at the Duluth News Tribune. He covers schools and education across the Northland.

You can reach him at:
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