Aug 5, 2014 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff WriterThe Central Wyoming College Board of Trustees has approved an extra $850,000 for the construction of a new facility in Lander.
Administrators said bids for the project came in higher than expected. It initially was budgeted to cost the college about $728,000. Now, CWC's share is estimated at about $1.58 million for the $2.83 million project.
The state will contribute $1.25 million.
CWC president Cristobal Valdez said building costs have been going up nationwide after dipping during the recent recession.
"From 2009 to 2013 was a great time to build (because companies) were looking for jobs," he said during a CWC Board of Trustees meeting this month. "Now we're coming back up. So it's not that (prices) increased, they're probably coming back to normal."
Ron Granger, CWC's vice president for administrative services, agreed with Valdez's assessment.
"Over 2012 and 2013 the prices kind of crept up on us, but for 2014 they just boomed," Granger told the board.
In a memo, he estimated that costs have increased about 30 percent over the last year. And Granger said the pool of available contractors has gotten smaller recently because of a statewide increase in construction work.
Granger added that the original project budget was set in 2011 based on plans for a remodel of the school's current Lander center. Since then, engineers and architects have examined the building and determined that a remodel was not feasible.
"The biggest problem in Lander, besides the building, was the infrastructure itself," Granger said. "We'd have to tear out some things and move some gas lines we weren't expecting. ... It was just impossible."
CWC has modified its plan to build a new facility on state-owned property next to the Wyoming Life Resource Center. Based on preliminary plans, the structure will cover about 8,000 square feet and include four classrooms that can be opened into two large classrooms.A computer lab is on the blueprint, as well as office space and an area for General Educational Development work.
Although the budget change amounts to a 40 percent increase in cost for CWC, Granger said it is "imperative" that the project move forward for the school to maintain its commitment to providing educational services in the Lander community.
"The best thing we can do is start building," he said.
The board's other option was to put the project on hold.
A groundbreaking on the new Lander Center was July 30 at the corner of Wyoming Highway 789 and Leedy Boulevard in Lander.
Granger said the project will be completed next summer, and CWC will occupy the building by fall of 2015.
Funds in CWC's construction reserves have been identified to cover the extra cost, Granger wrote in his board memo. The reserve funds will be replenished once the school's current facility in Lander is sold, Granger said.
He also could use money set aside for fiscal year 2015 and 2016 to restore the construction reserve, and he is looking at alternative means of funding through Wells Fargo.
"We can build that (reserve) back over the next year," Granger said. "I just absolutely am 99.9 percent positive."
Trustee Colton Crane asked whether Granger was being "overly optimistic" about being able to replenish the construction reserve money.
"Is this reasonable?" Crane asked. "Everything (indicates) that this will work out --you're not just wanting to get the center done?"
Granger assured him that the school's construction reserve is in good shape.
"We have built up our contingent fund for construction," Granger said. "We want to keep a certain percentage in there (because we) never know what will happen, if there will be some major thing we have to re-do."
Trustee Heather Christensen inquired about the sale of the current Lander center. Granger said he has been negotiating with the state to see whether they may be interested in the property. Otherwise, he said he has not made moves to advertise the sale, since CWC will be using the building until the new Lander Center is finished next year.
CWC also could lease the current facility, but Granger said he's not interested in that prospect.
"If we have to, that would be the second-best option," he said.
The low bid for the project came from SDI General Contractors out of Lander, for $2.43 million.
Granger said the total budget of $2.83 million includes the cost for the contractor, architect, engineers, furniture, fixtures and incidentals.
Other offers were from Century Contractors of Iona, Idaho, for $2.77 million; Shepard Construction of Rawlins for $2.78 million; and A. Pleasant Construction of Green River, for $2.84 million.
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