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Presidential Library foundation taps Mortenson as builder

The foundation behind the proposed Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library will ramp up planning for the facility following a decision to hire an outside project manager.

The foundation behind the proposed Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library will ramp up planning for the facility following a decision to hire an outside project manager.

The library's foundation board voted to employ the services of Minneapolis-based Mortenson Construction during its Monday meeting as it moves forward with the early stages of a library and museum devoted to the 26th president.

Jim Kelly, the library's interim CEO, described Mortenson as "resource-rich in the planning area," which is an asset the prospective library hopes to utilize.

"Most of that will be them aiding us in planning for overall structure, not necessarily just architectural plans," Kelly said, adding that Mortenson will be leading through phases of engineering, architecture, site preparation and interior planning. "It's a cradle to the grave approach of having all the construction and development-related topics under one umbrella."

Kelly said price negotiations are ongoing and the library board hopes to create a plan with Mortenson this week that would sketch out proceedings for the next one to two months.

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Mortenson has been in charge of several major projects in Dickinson, including the West River Community Center, the Biesiot Activities Center and the Dickinson Middle School.

Bruce Pitts, president of the foundation board, said the planning aspect is the most important part of the current work. He said the board is working with a Mortenson project manager and hopes to have a more cohesive plan by mid-August.

Having a plan in place will be useful going into the upcoming session of the state Legislature, Pitts said. He described the initial phase of building that plan as "somewhat brief, but intense."

In the Monday meeting, the board approved the creation of a design and construction committee to guide the planning process.

Design costs reduced for Elkhorn Ranch cabin rebuild

The proposed library's true-to-life rebuild of Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch cabin could come in about $27,000 cheaper than first expected following a resolution approved Monday by the board.

Kelly said the initial bid with JLG Architects, the Grand Forks-based firm chosen to spearhead the design, had come in at $75,000. That initial bid, he continued, was for a "pretty intricate" approach to capturing the historical feel of the original cabin, which was completed in 1885.

While thorough, the method also raised costs by way of the increased hours put into researching for period accuracy.

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Moving forward, Kelly said, the architectural firm will pull back from that stringency while maintaining engineering tasks it would have otherwise tasked to a subcontractor.

Kelly said he believed the benefit of the new price was that the board wouldn't be "sacrificing too much" in terms of design quality in return for lower costs and a reduced focus on the more minute details.

The eventual contractor for the cabin build would be making decisions on capturing authenticity with the aid of the foundation board.

Foundation board member Steven Beckham said he was pleased with the fee reduction.

"There's quite a bit of historical information available from photographs and archaeological reports and I'm confident that JLG can deliver the right plans for this project with that new figure," Beckham said.

Permanent library CEO search continues

As it continues to conduct its search for a permanent CEO for the library, the foundation board voted Monday to extend Kelly's interim contract through the end of 2016.

Pitts thanked Kelly for the work he's done so far and made an offer to increase Kelly's monthly compensation by $1,000 from its previous rate of $12,000.

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Kelly was offered a six-month contract for the interim role in a Dec. 21 meeting of the foundation board. At that time, board members hoped to have a permanent executive selected by this month or the next.

Later in the meeting, Beckham gave an update on the search for the permanent executive.

Beckham said the pool of candidates "remains small" with 21 formal applicants remaining.

One potential candidate, he said, has yet to apply but made a visit Dickinson and Theodore Roosevelt National Park to get a feel for the area. Beckham said uncertainty about some early aspects of the project is responsible for at least some of the difficulty in building an applicant pool.

"For some candidates, there is a lack of clarity about the priorities for the board," he said, subsequently listing off questions about the scope and purpose of the library. "I think we need to brainstorm bit to clarify and balance these multiple objectives."

Pitts responded to Beckham by saying the planning work to be carried out with Mortenson would address the ambiguities brought up by Beckham as a "prerequisite" to continue with more specific tasks.

Related Topics: DICKINSONJLG ARCHITECTS
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