FARGO - Despite reports that the new City Hall building is on budget, city leaders found themselves once again approving additional funding - $2.2 million this time around - on Monday, July 16.
As described by Mayor Tim Mahoney, it was not exactly a cost overrun but a cost that had been forgotten about. Staff knew they'd need to pay for certain things left out of the original construction bid and, upon revisiting those things, were surprised just how much they cost, he said.
"It is what it is, and we just gotta get it done," he said.
City Commissioner Tony Gehrig, who has complained about the cost of the building in the past, said the question is how those costs could've been left out in the first place.
The vote to approve the funding was 4-1, with Gehrig dissenting. Like the mayor, commissioners voting "yes" expressed disappointment but also the need to get the building done.
The total cost of the City Hall building is now $29.8 million - 33 percent higher than the bid in June 2016. The additional costs will be paid out of the franchise fee paid by cable companies and savings in health insurance costs the city realized when it rebid the service earlier this year.
When city leaders got the low bid of $22.5 million in 2016, it was for a second, pared down design. They'd rejected a previous design when the low bid came in at $31.1 million in 2015.
The 2015 bid didn't include many things that were actually needed for the project, such as furnishings and the demolition of Centennial Hall to make room. So the 2016 bid didn't include those things either for a fair comparison.
Staff eventually came back asking for more money, increasing the project cost to $27.7 million.
On Monday, staff asked for $1.2 million for equipment to allow city leaders to broadcast meetings held in Commission Chambers in new high-definition standards and $907,000 for miscellaneous things such as furnishings, computer equipment and a service to test the building's features to ensure contractors did their work.
Ron Gronneberg, the city's director of information services, said staff didn't include these technology costs with the 2016 bid because the city would've gotten 2-year-old technology in its new building and technology has advanced a lot in those years.
Gehrig said he feels like someone deliberately hid the costs to ensure the project seemed like it cost less. How, he wondered, could someone forget the cost of doorknobs or microphones in Commission Chambers?