City of Lawrence did not receive any bids to operate Pallet Shelter Village, potentially resulting in additional delay

photo by: City of Lawrence/Pallet

The city of Lawrence approved a project with Washington-based Pallet, which produces small shelters such as the ones shown above, to provide secure places for people who are homeless to temporarily reside.

In what could potentially result in added delay for the project, the City of Lawrence did not receive any bids from social service agencies interested in operating a temporary shelter site the city plans to open on North Michigan Street.

Danelle Walters, Planning and Development Services assistant director with the city’s Housing Initiatives division, informed city leaders of the outcome of the city’s request for proposals at the Lawrence City Commission meeting Tuesday evening.

“We did not receive any qualified bids for the operations, so staff is regrouping, likely tomorrow or Thursday, and we’re going to figure out what our next steps are and how we move forward with that,” Walters said.

Walters was responding to Commissioner Brad Finkeldei, who asked about the result of the RFP, which closed Tuesday afternoon. As the Journal-World reported, the city indicated that the opening of the site had been delayed by approximately six months due to delays in several components of the project.

Initially, the city anticipated the Pallet Shelter Village — made up of prefabricated 64-square-foot cabins and other support structures — would open this month. Last week, citing multiple factors, including the pending demolition of buildings on the site, an unanswered bid for fencing, and the timeline needed for site analysis and preparation, the city anticipated opening the Pallet Shelter Village in approximately six months, specifically “this fall before the winter temperatures hit,” according to a memo to the commission.

In March, the commission approved spending $1.11 million to purchase the shelter structures from the company Pallet and $725,000 to purchase a property at 256 North Michigan St. to serve as the location of the Pallet Shelter Village. Unlike a city-managed campsite currently operating in North Lawrence, the city plans to hire an outside agency to provide 24/7 management of the Pallet Shelter Village, which the city anticipates being in place three to five years.

On Wednesday, the Journal-World asked Walters whether the city has gotten any feedback from social service providers about why they are not applying to operate the site, such as staffing availability or specific aspects of the RFP, and whether the city will make any changes to the RFP before putting it out again. The newspaper also asked if the need to open up the RFP again would affect the six-month timeline.

Walters said that as the RFP just closed Tuesday, the city will evaluate its options. She said the city thinks the need to reopen the RFP “may impact our timeline,” but it is unclear at this point what the impact may be.

On Tuesday, Walters reconfirmed to the commission that the city-managed campsite in North Lawrence would likely continue to operate until the Pallet Shelter Village opens.

“As long as it’s appropriate, we are working towards maintaining that support site, until we can get the Pallet Village open,” Walters said.

She also said that the city continues to provide 24/7 staffing at the North Lawrence site and has added some hot-weather-related support, including water, a misting area and a shade tent that can also be used for residents to meet with guests or social service workers.

The memo to the commission also provided an update on costs for the Pallet Shelter Village, breaking them down into costs to date and currently unknown costs. The memo states the Pallet Shelter Village is being funded by $4.5 million in pandemic relief aid provided to the city through the American Rescue Plan Act. Total known costs at this time are about $2.06 million and include: the purchase of land and related costs ($725,404); the Pallet cabins and their delivery and installation ($1.11 million); professional engineering ($93,000); and the demolition contract for the existing modular buildings on the site ($130,000).

Unknown costs that are yet to be determined include the cost of fencing, site preparation, and operations and overhead. The memo states those costs will become clear as the RFP processes for operations and fencing and the professional engineering work are completed. Site preparation will include electric, sewer, water and broadband hookups, ground preparation, cabin anchors and installation charges. Operations and overhead will include site staffing, utilities, maintenance, technology costs, supplies, flex spending and food.


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