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Rawlins builder picked for city's new justice center

Jun 10, 2014 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

The Riverton justice center project has a contractor: L.M. Olson Inc. of Rawlins. Fremont County Commissioners accepted Olson's bid on June 10 contingent upon contract negotiations.

Olson's bid, at $4.7 million, was the lowest of seven received by the May 22 deadline. Through negotiating cuts, commissioners hope to lower the price further as it came in higher than they had expected.

"That is maybe adding or deleting some things, but you're not going to go over the maximum amount (of $4.7 million)," commission chairman Doug Thompson said.

The motion to accept the bid passed 4-1, with Commissioner Stephanie Kessler voting against it.

County adds $250,000

Without a contract in place, he could not say when construction would start, said Commissioners Travis Becker. Once it does, though, he expects it to last 12 to 14 months.

The county board also approved increasing county funding of the project by $250,000 to $2.6 million. The move also passed 4-1, this time with commission vice chairwoman Keja Whiteman voting against it.

With the $4.7 million for construction added to architect fees, other costs and 5 percent of the total cost held in cash in case of unexpected overruns, the total price tag is expected to be about $5.5 million. It could drop if commissioners negotiate cuts. The current projected cost, however, is $500,000 over the budget commissioners approved in May.

On June 5, the State Loans and Investment Board approved a grant to cover half of the total cost, including half of the $500,000 that was over budget. Commissioners had to commit to cover the other half of the overrun.

Any changes to the building design worked out with the contractor to save costs would have to be approved by the county commission, Becker said.

Rising costs

Fremont County Treasurer Scott Harnsberger questioned why the bids came in over the budget estimated by the project designers, Reilly Johnson Architecture.

Architects told him the cost was higher than expected because other construction work in the county, including two new schools and the Wind River Job Corps building near Riverton have driven up costs.

"It's taken up the prices on some of that labor, and there's some increase in materials cost that were not accounted for," he said.

Court officials have said the current courthouse in Riverton has inadequate space, technology and security. Moves to build a new facility intensified in 2012 when a bullet was found to have penetrated the current building.