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'One chance to get it right': Dickinson city administrator updates on City Hall, Town Square project

During this week's City of Dickinson regularly scheduled meeting, City Administrator provided several updates on current city projects.

Three members from the Dickinson City Commission are pictured.
From left, Commissioner Jason Fridrich, Mayor Scott Decker and Commissioner Nikki Wolla hear on the city's current projects during a report from the city administrator Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022, at the old City Hall. On Monday, Jan. 24, 2022, the City of Dickinson will be conducting most of its services at its new location on First Street West.
Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press
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DICKINSON — As construction crews finish up the final touches in the new City Hall building, the City of Dickinson looks ahead in making headway on the Town Square project.

City Administrator Brian Winningham reported Tuesday to the Dickinson City Commission that they have approximately 85% of the staff moved over to the new location. Beginning Monday, Jan. 24 , the city will be conducting its services at 38 First St. W., as the old City Hall on Second Street will no longer be of use to the public. The following services will be accessible at the new City Hall: administration assessing, building and codes, city court, engineering, finance, human resources, information technology, planning, safety and utility billing.

Dickinson Municipal Court and utility drop boxes will remain at 99 Second St. E., for the duration of the Dickinson Town Square project. Once that project is complete, utility drop boxes will move to the alley to the east of the new City Hall.

Currently, Roers Construction is working to meet that Jan. 24 deadline.

“Although I believe they are behind in some of those items that they should have been complete on, there (are) reasons — I can call them excuses — but essentially reasons why all of the work is not completely done,” Winningham said. “As you know, during the contract, there was a specific timeline. What we’re going to do is continue to push to get the items done; we want to be open for business on the 24th of January. That’s what we’ve put out to the public and I know that the crew from Roers is working really hard to get that all done this week.”

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Some issues include the disruption in supply chains and obtaining hardware, he said.

“... What we’re really seeing is that… it’s manpower intensive now. We’d like to see more hands and feet over there, getting the final touches done before city staff completely moves in. That’s what I saw over a little bit over the weekend (and) I see that now this week,” he noted.

By Friday, Winningham said he hopes that intensity continues to grow so that services will be functioning by the start of next week. A final walk-through and acceptance of the construction and renovations will most likely take place after the city is fully occupying the building, he added.

Some unexpected setbacks with Town Square

Following Winningham’s update on the new City Hall , he stated that the Dickinson Town Square project has run into some issues.

“We had some weather that slowed us down a little bit as far as how the progress is going, we expected that. What we didn’t expect is during the initial excavation of some of the foundation, what was discovered was there (were) some remaining piers and some remaining concrete and debris. That wasn’t identified; that was unforeseen,” he said. “Some of that debris was removed. It did wind up having the contractor go and perform some of that excavation themselves.”

To fix that issue, it costed the city $45,000, which was currently covered under the Owner’s Contingency Fund, Winningham said, explaining, that setback extended the timeline to about 15 days. The project’s completion date is slated for this fall.

Though that discovery was not anticipated, Winningham noted how the project is progressing. In early December, crews began the underground work at the downtown location. During the bid and contract negotiations toward the end of 2021, the city and JLG Architects discussed replacement products.

According to Winningham, the city went forward with zinc material for the structure’s paneling. Though the city was trying to save that $90,000 in cost, the longevity of zinc as opposed to cheaper products determined that decision, he said.

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“... The cheaper product that we could have purchased appears that we would have had to potentially redo that product over a short time — five or six years based on the weather. So we went forward and agreed with the architect and that seems to be a fairly high cost, but the payoff will be in the longevity of the product,” Winningham said.

In previous city meetings, the commission discussed adding alternates to the project as more funding becomes available. Currently, the Downtown Dickinson Association is working on a capital campaign to obtain pledges for donations.

Winningham noted that the city is running against time with already two months behind on schedule. However, the alternates can be reviewed periodically during the project’s initial take-off, he said, adding that more will be addressed in the Feb. 1 commission meeting.

“This is our one chance to get it right,” Winningham remarked.

One of those alternates includes adding real ice instead of synthetic ice. During the upcoming Feb. 1 commission meeting at the new City Hall, Winningham said that he will present what those costs will be. From there, the commission will have to decide what they feel is best for this project.

“It’s very hard to determine whether they’re going to have the money since it’s a capital campaign and those are pledges,” he said. “But I think it’ll at least (bring) the data in front of the commission, so you can determine whether real ice will be the best course of action.”

Another discussion item Winningham brought forth included the size of the stage and power considerations.

“I think we have to get it right and I think we want to make sure that we bring the data before the commission. And I would rather have changes for the amount of money that is being considered come before the commission very quickly, so that we get it right. What we don’t want to do is have a stage that’s too low and underpowered. But based on what I’m hearing from the architects and from the last meeting, there was discussion whether that was correct,” Winningham said, adding that he’s working to provide a transparent and informative report to the commission.

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Mayor Scott Decker noted that the stage is a vital piece to this project and it needs to be constructed with efficiency in mind to accommodate all different types of entertainment acts.

“I’m happy to see that their fundraising is going well. I, personally, would rather see real ice; I think that eliminates a lot of the need for specialized skates... Again, I would like to see the changes and the cost in doing that and if it sets back the project any by making that change,” Decker said.

The same sentiment was shared by Commissioner John Odermann.

“Well, I think it’s really great how well the fundraising has been going and the alternates give them an additional shot in the arm from a fundraising standpoint because once they get to a certain point, they might stagnate a little bit. And if there is the opportunity to go back out to somebody that hasn’t made up their mind yet, and say, ‘Hey, if you pony up your donation and make a pledge, we can maybe add this additional alternate to the Downtown Square,’” Odermann said. “I think it adds a little bit more sizzle to the sale in terms of getting someone over the finish line in terms of a donation when those alternates are on the table because they’ve done such a good job. I think it’s really exciting how well the capital campaign has done.”

Initially, Winningham noted that the city’s original budget for this project was $5.2 million , but is currently estimated at $4.2 million.

The Dickinson Town Square will be located on the corner of First Avenue West and Second Street West, behind the former American Bank Center building — which is the new City Hall building.

Related Topics: DICKINSON
Jackie Jahfetson is a graduate of Northern Michigan University whose journalism path began in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan as a freelancer for The Daily Mining Gazette. Her previous roles include editor-in-chief at The North Wind and reporter at The Mining Journal in Marquette, Mich. Raised on a dairy farm, she immediately knew Dickinson would be her first destination west as she focuses on gaining aptitude for ranch life, crop farming and everything agriculture. She covers hard news stories centered on government, fires, crime and education. When not fulfilling deadlines and attending city commission meetings, she is a budding musician and singer.
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