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Bidding process begins for Riverton justice center
Architect Bob Reilly explained the new projected cost of the Riverton justice center to stakeholders, including Fremont County information systems support director Joni Miller and Fremont County Attorney Michael Bennett, at a Fremont County Commission meeting Tuesday. Photo by Eric Blom

County votes to begin bidding process for Riverton justice center construction

Apr 23, 2014 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Construction on the Riverton justice center could begin this summer after Fremont County Commissioners approved going to bid on the project April 28. The county board would open bids May 22 and could award a contract June 10.

Commissioners expect to hear June 9 whether they will receive funding from the state to cover half the cost of the nearly $5 million project.

Commissioners Travis Becker, Larry Allen and Doug Thompson voted Tuesday in favor of bidding the project, and commission vice chairwoman Keja Whiteman voted against the move. Commissioner Stephanie Kessler was not present.

Construction is expected to start this summer and take 11 months, according to documents from the architecture firm.

Moves to build a new Riverton justice center picked up steam in July 2012 when a bullet was found to have penetrated the exterior of the current justice center in Riverton.

Bob Reilly, of Reilly Johnson Architecture, told commissioners that his company had finished the construction documents and could make them available to contractors by Monday. Construction documents are the plans contractors use to determine a bid.

Reilly advised starting the process before June when he expects many state school projects will go to bid, which would drive up the price of construction.

"The market has gotten a lot hotter," he said.

In its recent session, the Wyoming Legislature set aside funding that is expected to cover half the cost of the facility, but it would have to come through the State Lands and Investments Board.

Becker, who has led the justice center project, said he expected SLIB to decide whether to give a grant at its meeting June 9.

Reilly Johnson will evaluate the bids between the May 22 bid opening and June 10. On the award date, the commission should have the architects' analysis of the bids and know the status of the state funding.

Depending on how the project looks at that point, the commission would have to decide to move forward.

"We could award the bid, or we could not award the bid," Becker said.

Higher price tag

The $5 million figure is about $70,000 higher than a November projection. Some of the increase is due to the commission deciding to use ballistic windows and doors, fill the walls with sand to stop bullets and clad the exterior in a tougher product to prevent bird damage.

The needs for new communications and computer equipment also were higher than expected.

Architects originally thought they could use some technology systems from the current building, Reilly said, but he recently learned the equipment would have to stay in its current facility.

The Wyoming Supreme Court also is requiring the county to install some systems and build capacity so others can be added in the future, which added to the price tag.

"It's much smarter to do this now rather than pop holes in brand new walls," Becker said.

Architects also thought the building would cost $5.3 million. The newest number includes a $350,000 contingency -- money planners want to have on hand in case of an unforeseen expense -- that may not have to be spent. If the used cheaper exterior lights, and if the building was able to use a smaller emergency generator than originally anticipated, Reilly thought roughly $50,000 more could be shaved off the total.

Additional design fees for the unanticipated technological components added $24,000 to the total as well. On Tuesday, commissioners approved adding those costs to the contract with Reilly Johnson.

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