Thursday decision due on state part of justice center; budget growing

Jun 4, 2014 By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Factoring in all of the project's costs, bids opened May 22 put the Riverton justice center $400,000 to $500,000 over budget, Fremont County Commissioner Travis Becker announced Tuesday.

The county could make up the difference by paring down the building and asking for more money from the state.

No bid for the construction of the building has been accepted, but the lowest one received was $4.7 million. Architect fees, a 5 percent contingency, and other costs add more than $700,000, putting the total at at least $5.4 million. Architects had estimated the total cost would be about $4.99 million.

Construction bids ranged up to $5.4 million, so awarding the contract to a different company could raise the price further.

Being over budget presents a problem, because commissioners hope a state grant will pay for half the project, and they already submitted an application for the funds based on the $4.99 million figure. A decision from the state is expected this week.

"I'm 99.9 percent confident we'll get this funding Thursday," Becker said.

SLIB options

The State Loan and Investment Board is to decide on Fremont County's grant at its June 5 meeting.

There is a possibility SLIB could give the county more money than for which it originally applied.

If it receives the amount it applied for, Fremont County could submit an application for additional funding, for half of the difference between the $4.99 million and the actual cost.

Becker said SLIB officials told him the county also could request a larger amount at the June 5 meeting, so he plans to ask for $250,000 or $300,000 more than the figure in the application.

State funds are in place to cover a larger request as state legislators last session set aside $3 million for court security in Fremont County.

Cost cutting?

The county also could whittle down the cost of the project.

It could cut $100,000 to $125,000 out because of lower building code requirements, Becker said. Originally, architects thought an emergency system that could clear smoke out of a holding cell area was necessary to meet City of Riverton code. The ventilation system also would necessitate a larger emergency generator so it could work in case of a power outage and a fire.

City officials decided recently that the justice center did not meet the requirements for that system, so architects can eliminate the ventilators and scale down the generator.

Commissioner Keja Whiteman suggested getting the City of Riverton's change of policy in writing before committing to eliminating those items. The county board voted unanimously to cut those pieces contingent on receiving the formal word from the city.

Becker though more pieces could be cut.

"There's other savings I think could happen in there," he said.

Commissioners discussed hammering out further cuts with the contractor they select to build the project. The contract award would be contingent upon working through those reductions.

Riverton, Fremont County's largest population center, operates county law enforcement and court functions from a metal building on South Federal Boulevard that was not built for the purpose. It has been remodeled, but shortcomings have been recognized at the site for years.

The discovery of a bullet hole in the exterior wall in 2012 sparked a new effort to build a custom facility in north Riverton on land sold to the county by the Major family. Since the bullet hole was found, large cargo containers have been placed around the building's exterior.

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