Linn County using unusual approach to build new public health building

New Public Health and Child & Youth Development Services building for Linn County.

A resolution passed by Linn County Supervisors January 3rd allows the county to spend a maximum of $31.5 million on a lease purchase agreement for a new public health building in the Oak hill Jackson Neighborhood.

That means the County would lease the land to the company selected to build the project,

It would then be sold to a trustee for the County to buy back as it pays off the cost.

The county also approved the use of a 50-year lease to facilitate the agreement.

Most Supervisors say the lease purchase approach will give them more control than the normal competitive bidding process.

“We're not confined to only considering price,” says Supervisor Brent Oleson. “We get to consider where they're from, what kind of history they have, what kind of buildings they’ve built, do they see your vision,” he adds.

The board says they would rather use local contractors and workers than take a lower bid from an outside company.

Oleson also says the lowest bid isn't the best route on a project this size.

“They come back with change order after change order after change order, they hire fly-by-night roofers who come in and don't have any local experience, aren't from this community,” he says.

Linn County Auditor Joel Miller has come out as a strong opponent of the decision saying that the County will be spending too much money.

“We're going to be paying for the difference between what it would cost to do it in a competitive bid versus this process which we already have seen as more cumbersome more complex,” says Miller.

Construction cost is estimated at about $21 million dollars but preparing the building for use and the lease purchase agreement will cost extra.

“I expect the building to come in somewhere around $28 million at the high-end,” says Oleson.

“Joel we're never going to know what the true cost of the building was because we didn't bid it,” says Miller.

County Supervisor Jon Harris was the only Supervisor to vote against the lease purchase agreement.

He also believes the County will incur unnecessary costs but he says he respects the decision of the rest of the Board.

The county will select a contractor for the project at a later date.

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