February 27, 2024

Jasper County finds ways to reduce project cost overrun for Liberty Ave Yard

Supervisors earmarked $3.4M for secondary roads shed, but total costs exceeded budget

Jasper County Engineer Michael Frietsch shows supervisors the updated designs of the Liberty Avenue Yard during a past work session.

Jasper County’s total cost for the first phase of the new secondary roads yard was over budget, but county engineer Michael Frietsch proposed there are enough healthy reserves to absorb the extra costs and that there might be some parts of the project that could be delayed until the next fiscal year.

Which also means the secondary roads department will not be exceeding its $3.4 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds that had been earmarked for the project last year. The supervisors discussed the matter before approving a contract amendment that set a guaranteed maximum price for the project.

The supervisors did so knowing they might have to dip in to secondary roads reserves to make up the approximately $100,000 difference.

The current secondary roads yard is “not very conducive” to current operations. In addition to being located in a residential area of Newton near the 900 block of North 11th Avenue East, the site is seen by officials as constrictive when trying to access gravel roads, and many of the vehicles can’t be stored indoors.

Which makes winter operations even more difficult, for example. When all of the trucks are parked outside, it exposes them to the elements and adds more wear and tear. Being able to park them in a heated shed would allow for more reliable start-ups and give staff the option to pre-load trucks before a winter storm occurs.

“We started last year looking at this project and we decided we’re going to do a multi-year, multi-phase project. Phase One, which is what we started working on last year, was basically building a truck shed … 12 bays, plus another bay for the loader,” Frietsch said, noting two salt sheds and other structures would be built.

Fuel pumps and storage systems would also be added to the first phase. In future phases, more buildings would be constructed for other types of secondary roads operations, and eventually all engineer’s office staff would move into a new office space at the new yard, which is located in eastern Newton.

Rather than seek a traditional build, the county chose a Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR) delivery method. This allows the county to have more control over the design by working alongside a construction manager, who acts as a consultant to deliver the project within a guaranteed maximum price.

Stahl Construction was eventually selected as the construction manager, with FRK Architects + Engineers leading the design team. The designs of the first phase were completed in April and shown to supervisors, who were receptive to the initial blueprints. Stahl received bid packages about a month later.

From there, a guaranteed maximum price for the first phase work was determined to be more than $3.1 million.

However, the initial budget for the Phase One work was set at $3.4 million. The total costs with the guaranteed maximum price are now more than $3.88 million.

As a result, Frietsch proposed the county could delay some of the costs until the next fiscal year and draw from reserve secondary roads funds.

About $176,000 is included for the emergency power generator and $170,000 is included for granular paving materials. According to the county engineer, the generator will take 76 weeks to acquire — roughly a year-and-a-half — so it could be separately funded for in fiscal year 2025.

Frietsch also said the local secondary roads funds for fiscal year 2024 could be used for the granular paving materials. The projected carry over from reserves is more than $6.2 million, with the ending balance at the end of fiscal year 2024 to be at about $3.75 million; so there could be enough to absorb the extra costs.

Other cost savings include $36,000 in site lighting reductions and using alternate HMA paving supplier, provided the board is willing to waive bidding technicalities.

Much of the project is being paid for with ARPA funds. The supervisors initially planned to give $3.4 million in ARPA money for the project.

But accounting for the alternate funding sources and cost savings brings the total ARPA funds request to a little more than $3.5 million.

To save on further costs, it is likely county crews will take on additional in-house project work at the yard. Frietsch said secondary roads crews will handle any additional or final grading that needs to be done on the site, including the bases underneath the salt shed and site/granular paving.

“We do not anticipate this work interfering with our core responsibilities and ongoing maintenance and construction projects, so I’m not concerned,” Frietsch said. “This is not going to be work that is going to get in the way. It will occur later in the summer or probably early fall. It’ll be beyond our peak season anyway.”

Supervisors were fine with the idea to draw from secondary roads reserves to make up the difference so as not to go over the ARPA funds ask. Frietsch said secondary roads also tends to underestimate what it brings in for revenues; which means oftentimes the reserves are higher than what they expect.

The board ultimately has options to choose from when making up the project overrun.

“The beauty of this Construction Manager at Risk process, gentlemen, is this is a collaborative process that is very flexible,” Frietsch said. “A lot of give and take … We’re going to work with Stahl very closely to make sure we’re driving cost savings. Because at the end of the day I know where the budget number is.

“And I’m gonna drive it as low as I possibly can without sacrificing quality.”

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig has a strong passion for community journalism and covers city council, school board, politics and general news in Newton, Iowa and Jasper County.