Commissioners trim budget for courthouse annex

The Board of Madison County Commissioners discussed and scaled back the budget for the to-be-constructed courthouse annex with ThinkOne Architects staff and general contractor Langlas & Associates during its Dec. 3 meeting.

The discussion focused on big picture of costs for the entire project now that the commissioners, architects and contractor have looked at the full scope of possible project cost.

Commissioner Dan Happel said there is nearly $1 million or more tied up in the building’s foundation and the necessary site work. All parties have discussed several other options, including the possibility of the county taking the entire parking area out of the contract. The county would do the work with county equipment and crews. Happel said he would want ThinkOne to provide some assistance to guarantee proper engineering.

That $1 million in the foundation is about one-fourth of the estimated $4 million total project cost. The commissioners said they would like to see it even lower than that although they are unsure what the final cost of the parking lot property will be.

With those marching orders, ThinkOne and Langlas said they are close to the commissioners’ goal of $3.75 million, but have some work to do. The commissioners reminded them that the county wants to be really careful about the budget to ensure they do not ask taxpayers for money for the project. Funds for the project have been saved in a capital improvement fund for years solely for the purpose of building new administrative offices.

In order to lower the costs, the county will also get the building site in pad-ready condition. That could happen as early as this winter if the commissioners finalize a deal with the Montana Heritage Commission for the land purchase. The commissioners also decided to keep lighting in front of the annex on the front and not include any poles. They will also have basic required lighting in the parking lot.

Board chair Jim Hart said the county would absorb the dumpster costs and dumping fees for the project. The sanitarian fee will also be waived because the county has its own. Tom Shaffer, who works for the county’s facilities and maintenance office, said the county could easily help with the final cleaning of the windows. That total cost was previously estimated to be about $9,000.

The commissioners, ThinkOne and Langlas agreed that the project is within striking distance of the budgetary goal and the savings will not affect the look or feel of the building.

“We have not affected the building size or plans really,” commissioner Dave Schulz said.

Construction of the annex is anticipated to begin in spring 2014. The annex will house county offices currently spread out in Virginia City and alleviate the problem of cramped offices in the courthouse. The courthouse will go back to being used solely for its original intent—legal proceedings like court hearings. The Sheriff’s Office and county jail will remain at the courthouse.

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