A proposed Northfield skateboard park years in the making is going to have to wait a bit longer as the Northfield City Council decides how to move forward with insurance concerns.

The city of Northfield has worked with interested parties, including the Northfield Skateboard Coalition, for years to try to construct a skateboard park. The site for the skateboard park was debated and readdressed dozens of times before settling on Old Memorial Field. Within the around 14-acre park, four potential sites have been identified, with the planned project taking up between 3,000-4,000 square feet of a plaza-type park.

So far, more than $80,000 has been raised to fund the project.

In January 2014, requests for proposals were sent out by the city, with California-based Spohn Ranch Skateparks submitting the preferred design bid. However, after starting to work with the design company, Spohn Ranch balked at the city’s professional insurance policy requirements of $2 million occurrence limits and $4 million aggregate limits.

The city’s insurance provider, Bearence Management Group, suggested that the city stick with its policy, though current statutory tort limits are set at only $1.5 million.

Assistant City Engineer Brian Erickson, who has worked with Spohn Ranch on this project, said the company said it would cost between $4,500-$9,000 to add the extra insurance liability onto the project. He added that so far, they’ve been firm in not increasing their liability coverage.

Councilor Suzie Nakasian asked if it would be possible for the city to just cover the extra insurance limits with the city’s insurance, but City Administrator Tim Madigan said that wouldn’t be possible. However, Erickson said it would be possible for the city to build the cost of adding extra insurance into the proposal, so that in essence Northfield would cover the extra insurance costs. This has been done previously for a city project, though that extra insurance only cost around $250.

Erickson said that Spohn Ranch knows the area and the project best, so the project could most forward most quickly if the city continued with that company.

“They’ve already prepared a conceptual design and they are familiar with the area,” he said. “They’re the best of the two proposals we received, and I think they’d do the best job on the project. We haven’t lost the construction season at this point, but the window is starting to close.”

Some councilors agreed, while others suggested putting a limit on how much the city would pay for adding higher insurance limits.

Some councilors were more interested in leaving Spohn Ranch and going on to the next bidder.

“Spohn Ranch didn’t meet the requirements of the rfp,” said Councilor David Ludescher. “They shouldn’t even be allowed in the conversation. Why are we even bothering with them?”

Ludescher suggested moving on to the next bidder, Pillar Design Studios. However, Erickson warned that that company’s proposal wasn’t as strong as Sphon Ranch’s, and he didn’t know what insurance policy Pillar would bring to the project.

Mayor Dana Graham also expressed unease with simply building insurance costs into the projects and setting a precedent for the city.

“It allows us on any project to be backed into a corner and tied in by one vendor,” he said.

Madigan suggested postponing the discussion two weeks to give city staff time to look into both company’s proposals again and learn more about the insurance situation with both.

Councilors agreed, postponing the discussion until the June 17 meeting.

Grace Webb covers the cities of Northfield and Lonsdale, and writes about public safety. You can reach her at 645-1117.

Grew up in Wisconsin, graduated from MSU-Mankato in May 2013, started with Northfield News in Nov. 2013. So far, I'm enjoying myself.