City council agrees to accept additional grant funding for food pantry building, but it may not be enough

By John McLoone

PRESCOTT – The City of Prescott approved an amendment to its grant funding with the Wisconsin Department of Administration at its meeting Monday, June 13 but may need more funding for the purchase and renovation of the building that houses the Prescott Food Pantry.

The city was granted an additional $464,100 to bring the total grant award for the food pantry expansion project to $1,408,700. Under the proposal, the city purchased the building at which the Prescott Food Pantry is located at 911 Pearl St. for $349,000. The food pantry now occupies about half of the building, which at one time housed the pool and community space for the River Heights Motel. Under the proposal, the food pantry will be able to expand its space. A commercial kitchen for preparation of senior citizen meals will be located in the building, and there also will be a site on the premises for COVID testing. The grant funding was possible through the state’s Coronavirus Community Development Block Grant program.

The city council action to accept the additional grant funding still may not be enough. The project was supposed to begin construction by July, but there’s a fear that bids, which already came in considerably higher than expected, will jump again because they are more than 90 days old, the length of time they were guaranteed. Bids were received in March.

The city and its engineer- ing firm, SEH, will work with Market & Johnson, low bidder on the project at $1,025,000, to see if that bid will still hold. The city will also have to contact the Department of Administration on the matter, because construction likely won’t start for months, because of contractor workloads.

There is a possibility the city will have to ask for more grant funding for the project, and the DOA said that could be possible.

City Administrator Matt Wolf told the council that the low construction bid was $519,000 over what was anticipated when planning was underway a year ago. By accepting the additional funds, the city also had to agree to put $25,000 toward the project, which comes from its contingency fund.

Mayor Robert Daugherty wrote in a letter to the DOA that the additional funding is necessary because of inflated costs due to market conditions and lack of available contractors.

“The food pantry, senior meal prep kitchen and COVID testing location is vital for our community,” wrote Daugherty.

Seth Hudson of SEH said that one problem that has led to some of the delay is working with the DOA for the additional grant funding.

“It keeps taking time and dragging out. By the time we get our paperwork back from DOA, it’s 30 days and our prices go up,” he said.

There is a chance that the food pantry may have to mount a fundraising campaign if there are additional overruns, if the city isn’t able to negotiate the construction price with Market & Johnson.

“You could approve this tonight based on the initial bid from Market & Johnson. The state could then say it has to be rebid,” said Hudson.

“We’re playing kind of roulette right now,” Alderperson Bailey Ruona commented.

Alderperson Maureen Otwell commented that the city is just out the $349,000 for the building purchase, and the building could always be sold to recoup that funding.

“It’s the food pantry. They lose the building, they lose a place unless they could find an alternative space,” she said. “We know the food shelf can raise money. They have a proven track record.”

Hudson said the first ave nue would be to try to negotiate with the low bidder to see if they’ll honor the price.

“We can sit down with Market & Johnson. They’re a reputable company,” he said.

Daugherty’s opinion was that the city needs to proceed as planned.

“I think we should move forward with it. We don’t know anything else. If we have to go back and bid, we have to go back and bid,” he said.

Council members projected that the project will likely cost 3-8 percent more because of inflation, and Al derperson Pat Knox predicted it could take a year to get kitchen equipment.

“We have to sort it out,” said Daugherty. “We bought the building, we have to sort it out.”

Ruona commented, “Just expect this to be messy. This is the economy we’re living in.”

Prescott Food Pantry agreement The council also unanimously approved an agreement with the Prescott Area Food Pantry to sell the renovated facility to them for $1 when the project is “substantially complete.” Under that agreement, the food pantry is responsible for all building upkeep after it takes ownership. The food pantry must remain in the building for 15 years. If it ceases to operate there, building ownership would revert to the city.

June 21, 2022