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County looks to lower project costs

1/7/2014

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

After the Ellis County Commission rejected bids for two building projects last month, county commissioner Dean Haselhorst said at Monday's regular meeting at the Ellis County Courthouse he wants to consider all options for lowering the cost.

The bids for the remodeling project at 718 Main, site of the future administrative building for the county, came in above the $600,000 budgeted. One bid was $944,000, and the other bid was $995,000.

The six bids for construction of a new EMS/rural fire building also came in above the $3.5 million to $3.6 million budgeted. The low bid was $3.95 million.

Haselhorst, who took an informal tour of similar buildings both locally and in the area since the commission's last meeting, is in favor of the architect providing a concept for a metal building for the EMS/rural fire station. The current design is for a concrete building.

"I will definitely say if we build this building out of concrete, we would probably have the state-of-the-art building across the state of Kansas," Haselhorst said. "I think one of the things that I want to see from our architect -- and, I guess, our architect right now I can tell you I'm not very happy after seeing all this overrun that we never knew beforehand -- but I would like to see an estimate of building a steel building."

Voters approved in May a 0.5-percent county sales tax for the EMS/rural fire building and for renovations to the courthouse and Law Enforcement Center. Including interest, the cost of those two projects is estimated at $14.3 million.

"I think it's a way to save our taxpayers money; we're all accountable to every citizen in the county," Haselhorst said. "I think we need to look at some options."

Spangenberg Phillips Tice Architecture provided a list of possible cost reductions for the EMS/rural fire building totaling $465,800.

"We are looking at ways to make some cuts that would bring this back to budget," said Ellis County Administrator Greg Sund. "One possibility that would bring it down real quick ... is doing garages with steel -- that would be a $300,000 estimate you would save."

Commissioners plan to have a special meeting Friday to have a conference call with the architect.

"I don't recommend pulling this back down to budget, and then taking a chance of it going over again," Sund said. "I want to pull it way below budget, and then add back."

Haselhorst said he was willing to delay the project.

"I just think we need to look at this," he said. "I don't care if it delays this project six months to look at more options, because we are way over, and we did a great job selling this on sales tax. ... I don't want to go back and ask for another $500,000 by raising taxes or whatever to pass this."

Commissioner Barbara Wasinger also weighed in on the architect.

"The problem with the architects ... they said, 'Everything comes in 20 percent higher out here.' Well, if they knew that, why did they estimate the building would be so much lower?" Wasinger said. "They're not construction people, but they shouldn't be that far off. That's an issue -- a huge issue."

Sund provided figures for the first distribution from the state proceeds from the sales tax, which took effect in October. The county received $131,439 for its share of the tax, and the county received $147,170 from the city of Hays for its share. Hays leaders approved the city giving its share of revenue from the county sales tax back to the county.

Sund told commissioners the state didn't say for what period the revenue came from, but he guessed it was from the month of October. Commissioners asked Ellis County Treasurer Ann Pfeifer to see if she could determine what period of time the revenue came from.