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La Salle weighs public works building renovation options; city officials debate hiring outside architect

La Salle weighs public works building renovation options; city officials debate hiring outside architect

No decisions were made Monday about La Salle’s new public works facility at 2985 E. 350th Road after city officials presented different opinions.

Discussion occurred for much of the city’s finance committee meeting’s allotted time as the council weighed the option to hire Kmetz Architects for the building’s planned remodeling process or to perform much of the initial design work in-house.

The city bought the 26,000-square-foot building in May 2021 for the amount of $350,000. The city intends to use the building as the new home for the La Salle Public Works Department and for storage of its Celebration of Lights displays.

Architect Mike Kmetz said that if hired, additional information would be needed for the final costs to become official, but he estimated his firm’s fee would equate to 8% of construction costs.

Kmetz said his firm’s involvement in the project would include programming the city’s wants, needs and wish list items, figuring out the budget, prioritizing the wanted items, preliminary design, creating schematic design, creating bidding documents, assisting in bid solicitation and bid review.

Alderman Jordan Crane questioned Kmetz about the possibility of a design flaw and where the liability would lie. Kmetz said if a potential error was on the design side of the project and not the execution, then his firm would assume liability.

“If we designed something incorrectly and it got built and nobody realized it was designed incorrectly until the city used it, technically that would be on us,” Kmetz said.

Crane then presented questions to City Engineer Brian Brown, who put together a preliminary layout of the building’s planned floor plan. Crane had issues with the lack of details that showed the precise locations of each individual building aspect.

Brown assured Crane the floor plan given to the council was off the cuff and not a finished or highly detailed plan.

“It is a great start to a floor plan, I like everything that you have going on,” Crane said. “But these are little things that a contractor comes in and needs to know the exact location of each aspect.”

“Understand that this is a concept,” Brown said. “This was a way for us to say ‘OK, [Director of Public Works] Patrick [Watson] what do you want?’ We aren’t at a fine tuning part, this is just us saying ‘Let’s get everything on a sheet of paper to see what needs to be done.’ ”

La Salle weighs public works building renovation options; city officials debate hiring outside architect

Crane spoke in favor of hiring Kmetz Architects for the services it can provide to the project as well as the added level of accountability.

“We’re talking over a million dollars for the building, so if something fails on our plans, we’re liable,” Crane said. “If you ask me, that’s cheap security. In my opinion the best thing for the taxpayers is to hire this out to an outside firm.”

After Crane’s questions, Mayor Jeff Grove delivered a presentation to the council in favor of keeping as much of the design work within the city employees as possible.

Grove said architect costs in a few city projects have added up to a significant total. Grove presented the Illinois Valley Regional Dispatch project that totaled $94,252.32, and the Rotary Bathroom project that totaled $9,250 in architect fees.

With the undisclosed estimated cost of the Public Works renovations, the architect fees could be expected to come in far higher than either of the previously listed fees.

Grove called upon the council to trust the experience and skills of city employees like Brown, Director of Economic Development Leah Inman, and himself to perform much of the tasks.

“This is how this council has always worked,” Grove said. “We are going to save money, we are going to use our talent in-house to save money and put it back into things that we need to do.

“The bottom line is it’s your call. You guys have eight votes, but do we want to put $100,000 or $200,000 into architect fees? We need to use the money at home.”

Grove would rather see the city use the funds allocated to architects on the building to improve its functionality.

“We have a job to do – take care of the taxpayers money – and we need to do it right,” Grove said.

The finance committee elected not to vote or make a recommendation on this issue with the excused absence of Alderman Tom Ptak. This issue will be added to the next finance committee agenda Feb. 22.