MARINETTE — During a Jan. 21 meeting of the Marinette Board of Public Works (BPW), board members voted to reject to two bids for the purchase of “some” or “all” of approximately 12,600 lineal feet of original Community REC Center exterior insulated metal wall panels currently stored outside the City Garage.

Then, during the February Marinette City Council meeting, council members revisited the issue of panel bidding and discussed the decision by the BPW to reject those two bids. Menominee Company Plutchak Fab, LLC proposed both bids. 

During that meeting, the City Council voted to support BPW’s bid rejection, and to allow BPW to continue searching for more lucrative proposals. 

Presently, approximately 26 panels sit in stacks, under the snow outside the City Garage. Those stacks represent reminders for the significant delays that came with the construction of Marinette’s Community REC Center. 

The REC Center just marked its first year in operation, one that came with many successes, potential for improvements and a promising start to the state of the art facility.  

The panels once served as the original — but later replaced — exterior panels for the REC Center. After the original REC Center construction contractor hired to install the panels performed the work incorrectly, the panels needed replacement. The mistake also resulted in litigation between the City of Marinette and the company.

PANEL, DELAYS, LITIGATION: A BALANCED OUTCOME, ‘DONE RIGHT’

The saga of the Community REC Center panel construction fiasco began after the center’s original contractor and construction management company, Scherrer Construction Co. of Burlington, Wisconsin, improperly installed the outside wall panels. The issue resulted in the city obtaining a new construction firm, Appleton-based Boldt Company, to remedy the situation by replacing the original panels with new ones. 

In conjunction with other delays related to severe weather and flooding issues, the panel hiccup only added to what were already substantial construction delays, further pushing back the REC Center’s opening day. Those delays extended the initial March 1, 2018, completion date out to January of 2019, about 10 months. It also resulted in some added expense, leading the city to pursue litigation for recovery of those costs from Scherrer. 

That litigation ended in December and on advice of Marinette city attorneys. The Marinette City Council convened in a closed session Dec. 3, and unanimously authorized Mayor Steve Genisot to enter into a $450,000 settlement and mutual release of claims agreement with Scherrer Construction over the company’s incorrect panel installation.  

“As I understand, it was about a $900,000 mistake and the settlement allows the city (to recoup) $450,000,” said Alderman Jason Flatt. “I have nothing good to say about Scherrer Construction and I am legally prohibited from saying anything bad about Scherrer.” 

In describing the price of that “mistake,” Flatt referenced the cost of hiring Boldt Company to replace the incorrectly installed panels and then to finish the project.

“We had to pay to get that done,” Flatt pointed out. 

Genisot explained that while the settlement with Scherrer did not allow that city to recover 100 percent of the total cost to correct the panel issue, the overall expenses of the REC Center project — even with those additional costs — resulted in a very small overrun percentage on an approximately $17 million endeavor.

Moreover, in coming to a decision regarding the litigation settlement, Genisot emphasized the council performed its due diligence to ensure that the right solution to the panel problem was found and completed correctly.

“Like with anything, at some point you have to decide what both parties agree to; and (the council) worked on that for a long time,” Genisot said. “With a legacy project (like the REC Center) you don’t just want to slap it back together and hope it works … so even though there was some additional cost, it was the right thing to do and we got it finished according to specs, with a slight delay and some costs, but we did get it done right.”

Attempts were made to contact Scherrer Construction for this story. No response was received.

SUCCESS IN THE NUMBERS

During the January Marinette Finance & Insurance Committee meeting, Finance Director Jackie Miller presented a summary of REC Center expenses versus revenue. The summary revealed that after accounting for all expenses and revenues since the project’s early beginnings in 2016, expenses over revenue came to $65,938, which amounts to approximately .003% of the total cost of the project.

“For an almost $18 million project I think that is pretty good,” she said during the meeting. “How many projects does (Marinette) have that are that kind of magnitude? $65,000 might sound like a lot, but compared to $18 million, .003% is nothing.”  

Revenues at the REC Center are based on events, activities and programs. The more you can offer the better growth in revenues. According to various Parks & Recreation officials such as Executive Director Recreation & Events Gavin Scray, after the first year, officials carry a better understanding on what works and what doesn’t in the way of events and activities offered at the Center. That understanding brings a great deal of foresight as the REC Center focuses on the future.

Additionally, to date, according to Finance Director Miller, the city has collected approximately $2.2 million from the total donations of $4,163,356 pledged for the REC Center’s construction. Through financing arrangements, the remaining $1.9 million in outstanding donations will be collected over the next seven years with the final pledges coming due in 2027. 

“I think it is a beautiful facility and I think it is an asset to the city,” Flatt said. “(Regarding) the operating costs, I think we are still trying to come to terms with (those costs).”

Genisot agreed, explaining that he and other council members and city officials understood that such costs would initially be a challenge.

“We are looking at ways to support it, make it better and bring in more revenue and events,” Genisot said. “But I think we are on task. We could fight over every dollar of the facility for the next five or 10 years … but I think the community has a great facility with very minimal overrun.” 

RETURING TO THE PANELS

The initial two bids presented at the January BPW meeting from Plutchak Fab for the unused panels were mutually exclusive. The first offered $13,010 for all the panels, which equated to just over $1 per lineal foot. The second bid proposed to purchase just 800 of the 12,600 lineal feet of panels at $5 per foot for a total purchase $4,000.    

During the January BPW meeting, when those bids were rejected, all board members save City Engineer Miller voted in favor of rejecting Plutchak’s bids. Instead, teh BPW elected to conduct further research and discussion that might lead to a more lucrative return on the stack of exterior wall panels. 

“It was the recommendation of BPW that the City Council reject both bids,” Alderman and BPW Board President John Marx told alderpersons in early February. “And we asked (City Engineer) Brian Miller to continue soliciting additional bids.”

On the upcoming Wednesday BPW meeting agenda, discussion regarding the panels returns to the table.