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Bids opened for Corn Palace project higher than expected

City officials are reviewing two proposals from firms that seek to complete a renovation of the Corn Palace in downtown Mitchell. (File)

Two Mitchell companies submitted construction bids Wednesday for the first phase of the renovation of the Corn Palace, and both were slightly higher than those involved in the project expected.

Mueller Lumber submitted the lowest bid of approximately $3.95 million. Puetz Corporation submitted the only other bid, with an amount of $4.27 million. Both bids were opened Wednesday at City Hall in Mitchell.

"I'd say the apparent low, we can manage that number," said Eric Amel, of Meyer, Scherer and Rockcastle, a Minneapolis-based firm designing the project for the city.

"The next one is probably out of grasp, but we have to look carefully at both proposals," he said.

The budget for the first phase of the project is nearly $4.2 million, though those planning the project recently asked the city to increase that budget to about $4.7 million to allow for more timely construction of an elevator to provide access to the handicapped to the second floor of the Corn Palace. While both bids are close to the budgeted amount, other expenses, such as design fees or furniture, will add to the overall cost of the project.

In each bid proposal, alternates are included that remove certain design aspects from the project, reducing the estimated cost by tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Doug Dailey, chairman of the Tourism/Corn Palace Area Development Committee, said his committee will carefully examine both bid proposals and have a recommendation to give Monday at the next regular City Council meeting.

"The base bids came in higher than the committee would have liked," Dailey said Wednesday in an emailed statement. "However, as a group we were able to work with the alternates to come up with a project we feel comfortable presenting to City Council. Staying within budget is important to the committee, the council and the community, and this is a responsibility we took seriously."

The entire two-phase project is expected to cost more than $7 million. The city has already set aside $6.5 million for the project.

The first phase of the renovation plan calls for changes to the exterior of the Corn Palace, including new light-up domes with LED lights that can change color. It also includes larger murals with improved lighting and large windows that open to a walk-out balcony above the marquee.

In the second phase, the existing City Hall building will be vacated and renovated to include exhibits and a theater in the second phase of the plan. A new city hall will be built in southern downtown Mitchell.