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Commission promises more project oversight

1/12/2014

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

Ellis County Commission Chairman Dean Haselhorst vowed there would be better communication with the county's architect concerning plans for a new EMS/rural fire building.

"I think going forward, I know the commissioners will be more involved, instead of taking the architect's word," Haselhorst said after Friday afternoon's special meeting with the architect via conference call. "Everything now going forward, I think we're going to be very involved as commissioners."

County officials joined Haselhorst and Commissioner Swede Holmgren at the special meeting at 718 Main. Commissioner Barbara Wasinger was absent.

Officials discussed the EMS/rural fire building project with Brad Teeter of Spangenberg Phillips Tice Architecture, Wichita. All six bids last month came in over the budget of approximately $3.5 million. After accounting for professional fees, the total cost for the project would be $3.8 million. The lowest bid was $3.95 million.

The project is one of two approved by voters in May to be funded through a 0.5-percent county sales tax. The other project -- remodeling and renovation of the Ellis County Courthouse and Law Enforcement Center -- is estimated to cost $8.5 million. The sales tax will sunset after five years, or when the projects are paid off, whichever comes sooner.

Haselhorst asked Teeter, if the architectural firm believed costs for the building were going to be 20-percent higher due to being in Hays, why the commissioners weren't informed of that.

"Typically, in what I would consider rural areas -- not near a big city -- it does cost more," Teeter said. "When we get our cost estimating, we get the numbers what we thought the Hays project would come in at. We did take that into account. Apparently, we didn't adjust enough."

Haselhorst, who plans to take an informal tour of a metal EMS/rural fire building in Dodge City, wants the architect to come up with the cost for an all-metal building.

"My opinion is -- and I can't speak for the other two commissioners -- I want to see a metal building (specification)," Haselhorst said. "I want to know what it's going to be. I know it's going to be considerably less (cost).

"I don't have any problem going with a metal building. There's beautiful metal buildings in this town, all over."

Haselhorst said he felt blindsinded when he saw the bids for the EMS/rural fire building, to be located at 22nd Street and General Hays Road.

"Some of the changes we found out was the day they had the bid letting in this very building," Haselhorst said. "I feel, as a commissioner, I probably let the general public down a little bit, not staying on top of that as much as we should, by taking an architect's word. ... Then I find out on the bid letting all these changes. I think the big thing we had was a lack of communication, not keeping the commissioners informed."

That will change, Haselhorst said.

"I will guarantee all three commissioners will be very much involved," he said. "If we're making changes in this project, we need to know."

Holmgren told Teeter what he is hearing about the EMS/rural fire project.

"I can tell you the opinions about the price of this thing vary from outright hostility and animosity to a very deep concern about the amount of dollars we're spending on this thing," he said.

"Obviously, our concern as commissioners is to get the biggest bang for the buck that we can. Personally, I don't feel like we're doing that right now.

"I think, for lack of a better word in my vocabulary, we're building a Taj Mahal in the middle of Hays, Kansas, to have fire trucks and ambulances."

The new administrative center at 718 Main, in the former Commerce Bank building, was not brought up at Friday's meeting. Spangenberg Phillips Tice Architecture also is in charge of that project, which had both bids for remodeling of that building be more than budgeted. The county has $600,000 budgeted, and the bids came in at $944,000 and $995,000. That project is not part of the sales tax, but will paid for through the budget.

"That concerns me, it really does, where the same architect has went over that much on both projects," Haselhorst said after the meeting.