Council approves architect and design firm for Public Safety Building

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City moves forward with familiar design firm after proposals vetted by city staff

By Steve Van Kooten


In a duo of meetings on Tuesday, Feb. 20, the City of Prairie du Chien reviewed proposals submitted by architects and design firms for the future Public Safety Building. By the end of the night the council approved Short Elliot Hendrickson (SEH) to take the reins on the project’s design after a recommendation from the Public Safety Committee.

In attendance for the Public Safety Building Committee meeting were Charlie Connell, Committee Chair; Vicki Waller; and Nick Gilberts. Also in attendance were Chad Abram, City Administrator; Nate Gilberts, City Planner; Tad Beutin, Fire Chief; and Kyle Teynor, Chief of Police.

In attendance for the Common Council meeting were Alderpersons Nick Crary, Pam Kiesau, Waller, Kelssi Ziegler, Kayla Ingham and Nate Bremmer. Mayor David Hemmer, City Attorney Amanda Tisdale, Abram, Nate Gilberts, Nick Gilberts and Teynor were also present. Jaaren Riebe was absent for the meeting.

Abram stated the Requests for Proposals (RFPs) were due on Feb. 16 at 4:30 p.m. Over the weekend and through Monday Abram, Nate Gilberts, Nick Gilberts and Charlie Connell “reviewed them to get a head start on that process.”

“We did our due diligence yesterday going through these,” Connell said.

Nate Gilberts said the RFP amounts ranged from $554,000 to $740,000. The city was not obligated to select the lowest bidder, which meant each firm was weighed based on cost, qualifications, previous projects and references provided in their proposals.

Abram stated SEH was his first choice based on the city’s previous experience with the firm for the space/needs study and renderings for the public  informational meeting last year. SEH worked on a mixture of “big and small” projects in both urban and rural communities, while the high-end cost companies were mostly based out of Dane County and performed a lion’s share of their work in cities like Sheboygan and Minneapolis. 

“I don’t know how well they would do in a rural community like this,” Nate Gilberts added.

Abram pointed out SEH was the lowest proposal received at $554,804 and had their own civil engineering division and a USDA Grant Administration Specialist. Gilberts noted SEH did not have many “add-ons” for services not included in the RFP price tag.

“I was impressed they pretty much stayed on budget or under budget on their projects,” Beutin said. He and Teynor were brought in during the review process to offer their opinions and review the proposals.

“In our first meeting on the phone I was impressed,” Connell said. “The guy really knows his stuff.” 

Abram said SEH and the city had a positive rapport in the past, which was a reservation he had with ADCI, another firm that submitted a proposal for the project.

“ADCI was a close second because they do a lot of their civil engineering with Vierbicher, who’s our civil engineer,” Abram said. 

He also noted that, unlike many of the other companies that submitted proposals, Architect Design Consultants, Inc., (ADCI) had worked with Prairie du Chien in the past; however, that was also the reason Abram didn’t recommend them over SEH: “They [ADCI] did work on a library project, but there was a little snafu [sic] in that project that created more cost for the city. The soil sampling wasn’t done to the best of its ability from what I recall.”

Abram later clarified that he had spoken to previous council members and ADCI was not considered to be at fault in that instance, but the circumstances gave him reservations about utilizing their services for the Public Safety Building.

“I’ll be honest, SEH was my number two choice, and ADCI was my number one,” Nate Gilberts said. His opinion changed after he learned about the issues with the library project and that their proposal was approximately $50,000 more than SEH.

Abram stated SEH wanted to hold a kick-off meeting on Feb. 27 in order to get work started on the project if their bid was selected. The firm already had some knowledge of from the space/needs study.

Nate Gilberts stated May 7 was the scheduled date for the city to have a “very rough idea of what it [Safety Building] is going to look like,” and further information would be disseminated to the site’s neighbors and to the public after the schematic phase had finished.

“We want to get through the Schematic Design before it gets to the public because the design is our initial layout to ask Kyle, Tad, officer and firefighters, ‘What do you want to see different before we get going on the electrical engineering?’” Nate said.

The Public Safety Committee recommended the approval of the RFP from SEH, which was subsequently approved by the Common Council later in the evening. The $554,804 cost will cover architecture work; structural engineering; surveying; civil engineering; mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection design; interior design; USDA grant administration; environmental wetland reporting; and landscape architecture.


Library report

Elisabeth Byers, Prairie du Chien Memorial Library Director, submitted a report to the Common Council during their meeting. She provided a review of the library’s projects over the year and goals for the library to work on.

“One of the things we strive to offer at the library are programs to encourage all ages to continue their love of learning,” Byers said. “We try to get kids, for sure, but we also try to get young adults and adults to get excited about keeping interested [sic] in their learning.”

Byers said the summer reading program is part of that continual effort. For 2024, the program has attempted to add more live animals like stingrays, owls and snakes for children and adults to handle and learn about, which, hopefully, will encourage them to read about the topics that interest them. In 2023 she said shark were a popular topic.

The library also hosted local Wisconsin authors and artists with their gallery and meet-and-greets. The goal has been to reach out to the community and drive more interest towards “reading local” and supporting area artists.

The library’s community and meeting rooms were also utilized by DNR, Army Reserves, Boy and Girl Scouts and the Women’s Civics Club, among others.


Four chickens

“Is there any more discussion about chickens?” Hemmer asked as the council closed discussion on a new ordinance.

Abram introduced Ordinance 2024-02 to repeal and recreate a section of 9.10 of the Municipal Code. The section dealt with regulations for the keeping of livestock and poultry within Prairie du Chien.

On Feb. 12, Andy Banasik, Prairie du Chien District Administrator, had asked for approval from the Board of Education to go to the city for an exception to the municipal code. The exception would allow the FFA to house four chickens on the school property.

Abram stated the code did not allow the school to house the chickens on their property due to zoning restrictions; however, Abram and Tisdale worked on an exception that would allow schools operated under the 1.18 state statute to have the animals for educational purposes.

“Is there a maximum amount of chickens they can apply for?” Ziegler asked.

“Four chickens, no roosters,” Abram answered. He confirmed the exception would allow the school to house the same number of chickens allowed to residents in the city.

Teynor stated  that chickens and their owners had been issues in the past, “People have had roosters that have caused problems. People’s chickens have gotten out on occasion.” He also confirmed all animals—including chickens—had to be “leashed or controlled” within the city limits.

The council approved Ordinance 2024-02 and waived the first and second readings.


Other business

-Abram stated the city has corresponded with Amazon about possibly leasing a site at the airport for a pilot program. Amazon would house delivery parcels in a “crate with doors” that local drivers would use to pick up packages for the area. Abram stated it was too early to tell what kind of financial value for the city.

-Larry Gates, Utilities Director, was awarded Operator of the Year from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for his work with Prairie du Chien and work done with other communities in the area.

-Approved the letting of bids for bituminous paving and seal coating  of a portion of Dousman Street.

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