This article was posted in the Mankato Free Press:

$8 million Mankato bus garage set for spring construction

Posted: Monday, January 26, 2015 10:09 pm

MANKATO — An $8 million Mankato transit facility in the planning for nearly seven years received City Council approval Monday night, meaning construction will begin in the spring and redevelopment of city-owned land near the downtown could occur by 2016.

The new facility, which will be financed largely with federal and state funds, will be built as an expansion of the city’s Public Works Center at Hoffman Road and Victory Drive. When it’s completed, it will pave the way for the relocation of the last city public works operations from the downtown area, opening up a large tract of land between Sibley Parkway and the Cub Foods West area to anticipated development of apartments, retail stores, restaurants, offices and other commercial uses.

“It’ll be 2016, probably late 2016,” City Manager Pat Hentges said of the timetable for selling the site of the former public works facilities to developers.

First, the city needs a spot for its transit bus fleet, and the new facility probably won’t be move-in ready until more than a year from now, Hentges said.

“I think realistically, this is about a one-year project,” he said.

But the approval of the council, plus final authorization from state officials, leaves only Mother Nature between the project and the construction phase.

A representative of Gosewisch Construction, the low bidder among five contenders, said work would start “as soon as the frost is out of the ground.”

“We essentially have the green light to move forward,” Hentges said.

The Gosewisch bid came in at just under $6.3 million, about $400,000 less tha

n anticipated. That gives the city the opportunity to increase its construction contingency fund from $800,000 to nearly $1.2 million and increased the prospects of the project coming in under the current budget. Design costs were expected to be $540,000.

The price of the building was originally set at $6.5 million when it was first proposed nearly seven years ago. Delays in getting legislative authorization for the funding pushed the timeline back and the project grew to an estimated $10 million, partly because the Minnesota Department of Transportation wanted the facility to be large enough to handle growth for the next 40 years.

That potential growth includes MnDOT’s desire to see a regional transit system developed for south-central Minnesota that would be based out of the Mankato facility.

Members of the City Council, which had to finance the 20 percent local share, were concerned about the rising cost and several items were dropped from the planned facility a year ago, including reducing the contingency fund from 10 percent of the projected overall cost to 6 percent. The low bid from Gosewisch allowed that cushion to be restored and then some.

“So we are, at this point, below budget,” Hentges said.