Colfax County commissioners OK’d a bid for the exterior renovation of the historic county courthouse last week, but only after expressing some sticker shock at the price tag and disappointment at the lack of bidders.

The three-member board voted unanimously to accept a $962,564 bid from Bierman Contracting Inc. of Columbus for the project that is expected to get underway next April and be completed in the fall of 2018.

That decision came after Abby Hegemann of Omaha-based Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture presented her evaluation of the documents submitted by two bidders. The architect said both contractors were “well-qualified” to do the work.

Board Chairman Gil Wigington said he isn't worried about the quality of the contractors’ work, but the overall price tag for the project.

“The issue is the cost,” said Wigington while noting that the board had the option of throwing out both bids and rebidding the project.

“My goal was to make this place watertight, but if we threw out the bids they’d come back higher," he said.

Commissioner Jeff Bauman said tossing the bids would not have been fair to the two companies that submitted proposals.

“I say go with the low bidder and go on with the process," Bauman said.

Hegemann was also surprised by the lack of contractors interested in the renovation job.

“I was also disappointed about the number of bidders. I was hoping we’d get about four,” said the former Howells-area resident.

The architect’s initial estimate was that the project would cost about $820,000, but that figure was based on 2016 dollars. Earlier cost projections ranged from $380,000 to $1 million.

Originally, the project was planned in two phases — the first restoring the north and east facades on the courthouse and installing and repointing terra cotta this year followed by up to four months of work on the south and west facades from April to July in 2018.

Now, all four sides of the courthouse restoration work will done next year, beginning in the spring and extending about six months into the fall.

The board’s primary reason for the shift from a two-phase to one-phase project is that it will take about six months to produce the terra cotta this winter.

The renovation is needed because moisture has penetrated the nearly 100-year-old courthouse's exterior in spots, separating the bricks from the walls and cracking and wearing away the glaze on the clay-based terra cotta embellishments.

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