The Cloquet City Council has voted unanimously to award a contract for building the public library expansion to The Boldt Co.

The council also voted Tuesday, Sept. 17, to issue $1.5 million in general obligation bonds to fund the project after tabling the vote during its Sept. 3 meeting because bids came back approximately 30% higher than expected.

The 7,000-square-foot expansion was estimated to cost about $2.25 million when the city was awarded a $784,000 library construction grant from the Minnesota Department of Education.

Construction bids initially received pushed the cost to nearly $3 million, but city and library staff as well as members of the Cloquet Shaw Memorial Library Foundation worked to identify potential cost reductions for the project.

RELATED STORY: Bids push Cloquet Library expansion cost to nearly $3 million

Tim Meyer of Meyer Group Architecture in Duluth offered 13 “alternate deductions” that trimmed $325,600 off Boldt’s submitted bid of nearly $2.5 million.

Cuts included:

  • Baseboard heating in the addition;

  • New carpet in the existing stacks area;

  • An office for the assistant library director;

  • Built-in hallway display cases; and

  • Moving the circulation desk to the center of the library.

Interim City Administrator James Barclay, CSMLF Treasurer Larry Anderson and Meyer agreed the most painful cut was the circulation desk, which saved approximately $48,000.

The plan included moving the desk so that library staff could see throughout the library, including the stacks and the expansion.

Councilor Lara Wilkinson said she hopes the circulation desk can eventually be included again.

“I’d prefer to add that back in," she said. "That’s the only piece that I really see from a functional standpoint is so important to the operations of the library."

Barclay told councilors there was hope now because a contractor has been selected, so Boldt and Meyer can work together to create further cost savings and the circulation desk and other items could be budgeted back in.

Preliminary levy set

The council on Tuesday unanimously approved a 1.72% preliminary levy increase and budget for 2020.

While choosing to spend $1.5 million on the library, the council chose to forgo adding a parks director to the budget in 2020, among other reductions.

As the city looks to finalize the budget in the coming months, the levy can be adjusted down, but it can't be raised.

The council will hold its Truth in Taxation hearing at 7 p.m. Dec. 3 at City Hall.