By Ann Jantz, wyo4news.com
Sweetwater County, Wyoming — It’s next steps for the Sweetwater County Commission’s plan to consolidate the county’s Public Works and Fire departments. The first next step is a request for proposals for the project.
Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to have the Facilities Committee prepare an RFP for the Lagoon Drive Consolidated Facility project. Commission Chairman Wally Johnson said the county shouldn’t study this project to death but should, instead, find out how much building the new facilities will likely cost the county.
The Sweetwater County Facilities Committee recommended the consolidation in 2018. The location of the proposed facility is off Highway 191 South and Lagoon Drive near the Sweetwater County Justice Center.
Representatives from AIA-EDA Architects began Tuesday’s discussions by outlining the scope of the proposed project. Tom Brennan of AIA-EDA said the consolidation would result in more efficiencies, including shared truck maintenance space, a central location close to Highway 191 South and Interstate 80 to improve response times, and expected reductions in utility, staffing and maintenance costs.
According to the supporting documents in the commissioners’ agenda packet, the architects propose a 35,921 square foot Public Works building to house the Road and Bridge Fleet Maintenance, Engineering and Facilities departments. The proposed structure for Sweetwater County Fire Department is 18,352 square feet. Both Public Works and the Fire Department will have a shared truck wash building.
An additional 2,525 square feet is planned for backup dispatch, and 19 acres will be reserved for any future expansion.
Total projected cost of the consolidation is estimated at $21,739,080. Brennan said the Public Works building and supporting structures around it would cost roughly $7.5 million; the Fire Department building would cost about the same amount.
At the request of Commissioner Randy Wendling, Brennan offered the following figures:
- The Fire Department building and supporting structures of 18,352 square feet would cost $400 per square foot to construct. He said this a typical average cost for this type of structure.
- The Public Works building and supporting structures of 35,921 square feet would cost $200 per square foot to construct. Brennan said the difference between the two structures is that one is basically a warehouse, making the design and construction easier.
Brennan also gave a construction timeline: design would take about six months and construction 18-20 months. He noted construction is often driven by the economy at the time, and RFPs that are put together during the winter months usually get a better response because contractors have more time to plan for the spring construction season.
Wendling and Commissioner Lauren Schoenfeld asked if the plan offered enough covered storage so that vehicles and equipment that are currently stored outside could be moved inside. Wendling said he is a “big believer” that equipment will last longer if it can be housed out of the weather.
“I just want to do it right,” he explained. Brennan said the proposed plans should provide enough needed inside storage.
Commissioners Roy Lloyd and Jeff Smith questioned whether this project is the most important project facing the county. They said they did not want to spend millions on this project if it could be better spent on a more pressing county need.
County Treasurer Robb Slaughter cautioned the commissioners about moving forward with the project. He said the county will most certainly see a decrease in valuation, and with the possibility of unit closures at the Jim Bridger Power Plant he thought it best if the commissioners be careful moving forward.
Slaughter gave the county’s reserves at $40.5 million; he voiced a concern about driving the reserves too low if the commissioners intend to fund the consolidation project with reserves. He proposed they examine all funding options.
Wendling suggested the commission move forward with the RFPs with the idea that the county’s surplus properties have to be sold, to help protect county reserves and save taxpayer dollars.
“It’s fish or cut bait on the surplus buildings; it will come to that,” he said.
Lloyd also suggest they consider the sixth-cent option and thought the county needed to engage in some strategic planning.
Schoenfeld motioned, requesting the Facilities Committee go out for RFPs. She also asked Slaughter to provide the commission with funding options and the Facilities Committee to provide valuation figures for the surplus properties the county would like to sell.