East Main contractor saves project $1 million with low bid

Cody and Katie Grindall discussed their preliminary proposal for future construction of affordable rental housing at the Mikkelsen property by Dollar General.

By Robert Williams


Katie Grindall, an executive assistant for Karen Pifher’s Creating Community Consulting company, and husband Cody Grindall, a contractor, responded to a City of Frazee request for proposals on rental housing development at the Mikkelsen property near Dollar General. The Grindalls presented to the council Wednesday, May 8, in describing preliminary plans, along with answering a list of 22 questions that were presented to the couple by city administration prior to the meeting. 

A welcome sign to Wannigan Regional Park will be installed in the coming week to join the kiosk and trail signs that are already in place.

“I felt a passion to fill the need,” Grindall said.

Grindall explained her role as a manager and facilitator, while leaving the construction issues to her team.

Grindall is a 2007 Frazee-Vergas High School graduate and holds a Masters degree in Public Administration. She also purchased her first home in Frazee and described how her personal real estate investments have been profitable to the couple’s current home in Perham.

Much of the city’s inquiries were on the design portion of the proposal, such as the number of bedrooms per unit or if there will be garages as part of the project. Grindall offered a design contract with addendums to work on with the city on the early stages of the project.

The development would likely tolerate lower income housing.

The city also inquired on whether the project would be better for a developer to be the owner instead of the city.

“I did consider that as an option, as well,” she said. “The hard part for me is that it’s a really risky development. From an investor perspective, the cost to build is greater than, or equal to, what the supposed value would be. Also, investing the full amount of what it takes to build into a loan, which is what more private companies would have access to, would cause some cash flow problems.”

Grindall noted she would be interested in managing and owning the development after construction was completed, while admitting it would take a lot of price negotiations and fair market values.

“The reason that I proposed that the city owning it was to be able to bridge the gap between the construction costs and what an investor could actually afford and still make the business end of it work,” said Grindall. “There is definitely room for discussion there and there are a lot of ways to do it.”

Grindall reiterated her plan would include the city owning the property until construction was completed, leading to future negotiations at which she would be limited at what she could offer.

“I want the best thing for the city of Frazee,” she said.

Grindall stated that if the city could find an investor who could offer full value she would highly encourage the city to pursue that.

The project would construct apartment buildings that hold 12 units.

Vice Mayor Mike Sharp downplayed the likelihood of the city having an interest in owning and operating such a housing project, but the city could potentially help with incentives on the investment. Sharp noted those discussions would need to be had outside of the city council meeting in the future.

Grindall wants to explore all options and have future conversations about getting the design portion of the project started, along with working with MMCDC. 

She also shot down a past city council and Economic Development Authority idea of having single-family housing on the Mikkelsen lot, such as a small number of townhomes, as not being feasible from an investor perspective. She also discussed the difficulties of building in Frazee, given the benefits of working in less rural areas with more industrial development, like Detroit Lakes, Perham or Frazee.

“I’ve always had a soft spot for Frazee and I’m trying to make something work,” she said. “I can’t even get my investor to invest in Frazee, to be honest.”

East Main Project

City Engineer Chris Thorson introduced the agreement between Becker County and the city on the East Main Avenue reconstruction project set to begin shortly.

Becker County has jurisdiction over East Main Avenue (County State Aid Highway 30) and the agreement designates specifics between the two entities. The county will be paying for all of the street construction on East Main and all of the storm sewer. The city covers water and sewer and the paving of the downtown alley behind the fire hall and the road work done near the Cherry Avenue, Rivercrest Road, and 8th Street SE areas.

The full document goes over all the splits in the project.

“It’s a very standard agreement and it just lays everything out so you can see the big picture,” Thorson said.

Thorson also announced the low bidder for the project came in at approximately 40 percent lower than estimates.

“That’s both the county’s piece and the city’s piece together—that savings is incredible,” he said. “It was great to see. The contractor was really looking for the work and this was a project they wanted to take on.”

Thorson said the contractor noted they liked working in Frazee as the ground is easily movable due to sand and allows for rain days to be less detrimental to the project timeline. 

R.L. Larson Excavating out of St. Cloud is the contractor. Thorson has a history of working on projects with the company and highlighted their communication and expects the work to be delivered as expected.

The total bid was $1,790,000 and the project estimate was one million more than that at $2.9 million.

The council unanimously approved a resolution to accept the contractor, bid and county agreement.

Wannigan Park

Frazee Community Development Corporation (FCDC) representative gave the council an update on progress at the regional park. 

A welcome sign at the entrance is scheduled to be installed this week. A parking area has been located and will not demand any new roads to be created. Traffic flow signs will be installed to direct visitors to the parking area. A portable restroom will be added.

The Thomas Dambo troll art installation is scheduled to begin next week and organizers are asking to keep that area of the park private until the installation is completed, which will be in June.

The utility process for the park is beginning, which will include a light pole at the entrance, electrick, other lighting, cameras and wi-fi. 

According to the Wannigan Regional Park committee meeting, the park will be hosting a D.L. Festival of Birds event Friday, May 17 at 6:30 a.m. The event will bring 45-50 birders to the park for a one-hour visit. The troll building project will be underway, but not in the area of the park used for the birding event.