ATEC build could be delayed a year

© 2018-The Torrington Telegram

TORRINGTON – Officials at Eastern Wyoming College are confident a compromise solution can be reached with contractors on what it will cost to build the Agriculture Technology Education Center.

But going through that process of renegotiation, permitting and potential changes to the overall design of the facility could push its planned opening back a year, Keith Jarvis, director of the EWC Physical Plant, told the college Board of Trustees during their regular meeting Tuesday in
Torrington.

“I think that’s been a big subject,” Jarvis said, prefacing his report to the board.

Bids from five contractors were opened on March 27, and all the qualified bids “were roughly $1.5 to $2 million more than we can afford to spend,” Jarvis said. “We rejected all the bids.”

Initial base construction estimates were placed at between $6 million and $7.5 million on the project, project manager Brandon Van Tassell from Cheyenne-based Plan One Architects, designers of the project, said in March. The four successful bidders – Van Ewing Construction of Gillette, Goshen County Construction of Torrington, and Richardson Construction and Sampson Construction, both of Cheyenne – submitted “base” bids ranging from approximately $8.5 million to $9.2 million to build the ATEC and complete site work on the project. 

On Tuesday, Jarvis told Trustees he’d been in communication with the four contractors regarding their bids. Only Van Ewing of Gillette and Goshen County Construction responded to Jarvis’s inquiries about ways the college could save money on the project.

The bids are actually closer to the project cost and budget than it may appear at first blush, Jarvis said. There was only a 9.3 percent difference between bids and cost estimates for the base bids encompassing building and finishing the main ATEC facility so it’s ready for students and site work associated with the project. 

Adding in the alternatives, including an animal cadaver freezer, a lean-to to be built on the side of the building to provide protection for animals that may be housed on a temporary basis and the greenhouse to provide for agronomy-related classes at the college, brought the difference closer to 6 percent between cost estimates and bids, Jarvis said.

“We’ve reached out, and said, ‘You guys have been studying these plans for week.’” Jarvis said. “We asked what can we do to get back to our budget?

“Where did we go wrong in our design?” he said. “I think we’ve designed a Rolls Royce, but our budget can’t support that. We need to get back to a functional building that serves our purposes.”

Jarvis told Trustees another meeting is planned with contractors around the end of April to take another look at the project.

“My understanding is the contractors that want to participate in the ‘value engineering’ (of the ATEC project) will be providing input back to the architects on ways we can reduce costs,” John Hansen, EWC Director of Institutional Development, said Wednesday.

In addition, Hansen said his office is looking for additional grants and funding sources for the ATEC project, in addition to the “traditional” fundraising drive that’s still ongoing. He noted Tuesday a recent $50,000 from the Panhandle Cooperative group as one example of widespread support for the project throughout the region.

“It’s exciting to see where we’re growing as institutions together, their investments in education,” he said.

So, the ATEC project is basically going back to the drawing board, Jarvis told the Trustees. With re-engineering, approval of design changes attached to a federal grant that’s helping cover the cost of the facility and more, it could push the project back at least a year with re-bidding on the project probably in the fall of 2019.

“We’re going to try our best not to lose any square footage on the project,” Jarvis said. “But we’ve still got a long way to go.”

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