Library, arts hope to keep center contracts local

Construction bids are in and once a company is selected, construction of the Thyen-Clark Cultural Center at the corner of Third and Mill streets in Jasper should start in the spring. (Artistic rendering courtesy Jasper Public Library)



JASPER — Jasper Library Board President Dean Vonderheide worried he’d lose sleep Wednesday night after opening construction bids for the Thyen-Clark Cultural Center.

He had worried that the base bids for construction of the cultural center— which will bring the Jasper Public Library and the Jasper Community Arts Commission under one roof at the old Hoosier Desk site located on the corner of Third and Mill streets — would come in far over the estimated $13 million construction cost. Part of that worry stemmed from the volatility in the market for some construction materials such as steel in the face of tariffs on foreign materials as the Trump Administration carries out its American First trade policies.

But after the bid opening meeting Wednsesday afternoon, Vonderheide was pleasantly surprised.

The library and Jasper Community Arts Commission received six bids for the project, all coming in close to the estimated $13 million construction cost. Base bids from the companies ranged from $13,856,000 to $15,820,000, with the two most competitive base bids coming from Jasper companies, Krempp Construction and Jasper Lumber Company. That made Vonderheide happy because the two boards wanted the cultural center to be a local project from the get-go.

“It looks like they [local contractors] want to make it a local thing, too,” Vonderheide said.

The library and arts boards will also look to local companies to help furnish the inside of the cultural center. The two groups envision the building as a living showroom for local industries.

The board for the Jasper City/Library LLC opened the bids and will give final approval after the library board, the arts board and Indiana-based architectural firm Hafer Associates review the bids. Hafer Associates is serving as the engineering firm on the project. The Jasper City/Library LLC is managing the project in a structure similar to how schools set up building corporations to oversee major projects.

Although the base bids weren’t as far over the estimate as Vonderheide and other city and library official had feared, they were still over the estimate. Now, the arts and library must dig into the bids, looking at the long list of alternates to the project that were included in the packages. Some of the alternates will deduct money from the base bids, bringing them closer to the estimate. Hafer Associates will be in charge of digging into the bids to suggest the firm that offers the best price and can best complete the work.

Once the LLC accepts a bid, the chosen company will prepare to break ground in the spring, hopefully by April, weather permitting.

“The idea is that as soon as the weather breaks, they’re ready to break ground,” said Mike Jones, president of the arts commission.
The Thyen-Clark Cultural Center has been years in the making. Jones pointed out that Tuesday — the day before the bid opening — marked the four-year anniversary of the first time library and arts staff walked around the Hoosier Desk site together imagining what could be. Now, the two groups have embarked on a partnership and project that is repeatedly called “unique.”

If everything goes according to plan, the Thyen-Clark Cultural Center will open in 2020.


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