Baxter City Council tables request for engineering fee increase

The council pulled the item from the regular meeting’s agenda and tabled the item to get more information.

Baxter City Council chambers
The Baxter City Council meets Tuesday, May 16, 2023, in the City Hall chambers.
Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch

BAXTER — Citing a project that became a greater undertaking along the way, Bolton & Menk, Baxter’s design consultants, are seeking an engineering fee increase amendment not to exceed $295,465.

The council met in a May 16 workshop session to hear a presentation by Derek Arens, Bolton & Menk project engineer. At issue is work on the 2022 Highway 210 and Inglewood Drive railway crossing improvements and the 2022 Foley Road and associated projects.

In a Baxter Utilities Commission report, background data stated the project experienced additional obstacles and construction administration “has been a greater undertaking, commanding more of a commitment from the Bolton & Menk staff. … We are requesting a not to exceed increase of $293,465 to the current total contract amount of $1,156,552 for an amended not to exceed total contract amount of $1,450,017.”

“And our assumption was let's get through this 2022 construction year, see where we are for projections,” Arens said after the winter downtime and then seeking this additional fee amendment in 2023. He said an underlying issue came in the inflation rates. Arens said the project was bid in 2019 and the project was going to be done in 2021.

“Now we're sitting here 2023, the project doubled, as everyone knows … Inflation rates have increased, you know, almost six plus percent over the last three years,” Arens said. “We have had that chance to, I guess, recoup or revise our billing rates.


“... I guess from a city's perspective, you know, most projects are one to two years, even construction are one to two years. And even in construction contracts, there's a clause there that if inflation rates do go higher, above a certain threshold, the contractor can seek additional compensation for those inflations.”

Arens said one of the savings they expected to recoup from having an overlap of projects came with one service staff on site and one construction administrator inspector on site. But Arens said there were more headaches. One reason, he said, came from a staging change with the BNSF Railway and how Bolton & Menk wanted to pave Foley Road, they had to redesign the southern leg for the Knollwood project. Arens presented a multiple page report to the council of factors involved in the request and itemized ticket items and numbers of revisions.

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‘And whether it's professional relationship or personal, I was always taught and I believe 100% that communication is so very important,” Council member Connie Lyscio said. “So I guess my question would be, when did, when were you aware of how large the overage was going to be?”

Lyscio also asked how that was communicated.

Arens said they realized they were over the budget threshold in September and knew they had roughly a month and a half left in construction. Arens said that was after they had a sizable amendment and they decided to finish the project, see if there was a benefit from the single staff approach and then they came to the city in January and February on what would be needed to finish the job. Arens said they met with staff regarding a fee amendment.

“So the short answer is five months before you notified us that we were over,” said Council member Mark Cross. “... In those five months, didn’t you come to the Utilities Commission every month and give us a project update?”

Cross said none of the updates talked about payments amendments.

When Arens confirmed that statement, Cross said that was the answer he was looking for.


Arens said they wanted to bring everything to the table at one time because they knew the city was fed up with the last amendment, that it should be the last one and they didn’t want to have a lot of mini changes. But Arens said at the Utilities Commission the discussion was the city, in the future, wants all consultants to present any potential scope of adjustments.

The council pulled the item from the regular meeting’s agenda and tabled the item to get more information.

Renee Richardson, managing editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or Follow on Twitter at @DispatchBizBuzz.

Renee Richardson is managing editor at the Brainerd Dispatch. She joined the Brainerd Dispatch in 1996 after earning her bachelor's degree in mass communications at St. Cloud State University.
Renee Richardson can be reached at or by calling 218-855-5852 or follow her on Twitter @dispatchbizbuzz or Facebook.
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