News
Village Board wants better library project management

Suggest Library Board hire construction manager

ELLSWORTH – During the Nov. 1 Ellsworth Village Board meeting, trustees admitted they would like better communication in the form of a project manager for the new Ellsworth Public Library renovation, taking place at 388 W. Main St.

The conversation started with a report from the Oct. 21 Water & Sewer Committee meeting. Pember Companies, Inc., was awarded the bid (out of two bids received) for the library water main installation at a cost of $61,380. The money will come from the village bond proceeds. The project began Wednesday, Nov. 3 and finished Monday, Nov. 8.

“We kind of lucked out to get it done this year,” said Trustee Mike Steele.

Trustee Mindy Anderson said at the Oct. 27 Library Board meeting, members learned the library renovation plans have yet to be approved by the state, which will delay going out for bids. Depending on the state approval and bid process, the library opening may be delayed from this Spring to July.

The village board knew going into the project the tight timeline and possibility of finding asbestos were risks, Trustee Scott Feuerhelm said. The question arose of whether or not bids should be solicited while waiting for state approval. Village attorney Bob Loberg said that could present problems if the state modifies the plans. In competitive bidding, companies bid based on the plans. They may bid differently if the plans are changed, he cautioned.

Anderson said the lack of communication about the hurdles the project has encountered between Ayres Associates, the village board and the library board has her concerned.

Feuerhelm said the library board had “squashed” the idea of hiring a project manager, and seemed content with Ayres Associates Project Architect Jodi Nelson managing the project. However, a single point of contact is needed. Steele agreed, suggesting hiring a construction manager.

Library Director Tiffany Meyer agreed clear and consistent communication is needed and asked how the village board wants to move forward. She also said she believes the library board wasn’t sure how fundraising would go during a pandemic (it has exceeded expectations) so it didn’t budget for a project manager at the beginning. Personally, she said hiring a project/construction manager would be “awesome.”

“You’re seeing what you’re running into,” Feuerhelm said. “A construction manager would’ve seen all the headaches coming.”

The headaches the project has encountered include the water line installation, asbestos abatement, delays in state approval, etc.

He added that Nelson has said the plans would be ready in June; however, they were just submitted to the state now. Trustee Dale Hines is worried about the aggressive timeline and Nelson’s handling of it.

“Ayres has slighted a lot of people,” he opined. Meyer reminded the board that Nelson has been acting on the Library Building/Space Committee’s wishes.

The Library Board called a special meeting for 5:15 p.m. Monday, Nov. 8.

Other business

•Village President Becky Beissel attended the meeting via Zoom. The other six board members were present.

•Michael Konzen from Employers Benefit Group, LLC, reviewed benefit options. Village employees currently have insurance through Medica; Health Partners came in as the most competitive option. The board voted to assign the Salary & Labor Committee to pick a plan/company.

•The board approved the 2020 audit performed by WipFli LLP 5-1 (Steele voted against due to the struggle the village had in obtaining the audit on time).

•The board voted to pay the village’s half of the Summit Park tennis courts resurfacing project in 2022, to be completed by C& H Sport Surfaces of New Market, Minn. The village splits the cost with the school district. The total cost is $26,495.

•Hines reported Ellsworth Area Ambulance will implement a 3% per capita increase on service calls next year. The ambulance board also paid out PTO to employees since “no one has can take vacation” due to paramedic and EMT shortages, Hines said. Ambulance employees will be offered WRS health insurance as a retainment and recruitment measure. “It’s getting a little fearful,” Hines said of the shortage. “We need to shore this up if we’re going to keep this going.”

•Police Chief Eric Ladwig reported 270 service calls in September, 286 in October.

•Clerk Administrator/Treasurer Nicole Stewart reported the village’s new website debut has been delayed until later in the month.

•Meyer reported 300 children went through the drive through trunk-or-treat event Friday, Oct. 29 at the Pierce County Fairgrounds.

•The new public works director, Bradley Vick, began Nov. 8. Mike Huppert had been serving as interim PWD since Greg Engeset’s retirement earlier this year.

The board will next meet at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 18 for its annual budget hearing.

November 10, 2021