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The Burleigh-Morton Detention Center.

The Burleigh and Morton Jail Committee is taking a step back in its efforts to build a cold storage shed after concerns were raised Tuesday about contract issues and city zoning requirements that could change the cost of the building.

The committee in July had accepted a bid from Bismarck contractor Bitco for a 15,000-square-foot building. Some of the engineering costs and building permits were not included in the bid of $57,000, and Burleigh County State’s Attorney Julie Lawyer pointed out several contract provisions seen as unacceptable. The contract was received after the bid was accepted, Burleigh County Sheriff and committee chair Kelly Leben said.

The contract included wording that would have placed builder’s risk insurance costs on the counties during construction and would have forced the counties to pay for Bitco’s attorney fees if litigation arose. Lawyer said the committee should not agree to insure Bitco’s equipment during the project, nor should it agree to pay the attorney fees.

“They can always ask for that in a lawsuit,” she said. “We’re not going to agree to that on the outset.”

The contract also would have allowed Bitco to charge more than the bid price if the company’s costs for products, services or labor were to increase.

“That’s not how a bid works,” Lawyer said.

The cost of concrete for the building has already gone up $1,100, Bitco owner Brandon Bitner said. Four months have passed since the bid was presented, and as winter approaches it becomes unclear if the project can even be started.

“Who knows what’s going to happen to the steel pricing and the lumber and the trusses?” Bitner said.

County zoning and planning director Ray Ziegler said “a lot of red flags started popping up” when he explored the site plan and the permit process with city officials. The Burleigh Morton Detention Center is in the city’s extraterritorial area, so the city's building codes apply. The city likely will want a soil analysis and other testing, Ziegler said, and certain construction techniques -- concrete footings instead of a concrete slab, for example -- might be required. If that happens, Ziegler said, “now your costs are going to go up substantially.”

The committee voted to table the matter until the contract and building permit issues are settled. If the changes push the cost of the project to more than $100,000, a public bid process would be necessary. The committee originally sought bids from four contractors, which was allowed because the cost was below the threshold. Two of the four contractors submitted bids.

The committee in other business agreed to release a $200,000 payment to the detention center’s contractor, Comstock Construction. The money was being held until repairs to the polyurea coating used in the center's showers were completed.

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Reach Travis Svihovec at 701-250-8260 or Travis.Svihovec@bismarcktribune.com

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