The Ellis County Commission discussed two county building projects in a special meeting Monday afternoon in the county administrator's office in the Ellis County Courthouse.

Commissioners had discussions with department heads and the architect for the renovation project at 718 Main, site of the future county administrative building, then additional discussions with department heads concerning the new EMS/rural fire building to be constructed at 22nd Street and General Hays Road.

Bids for both projects came in above budget when they were opened in December. The bids were rejected in January, and the architect for both projects, Spangenberg Phillips Tice Architecture, pared down the projects' costs to get them under the county's budget.

The low bid for the EMS/rural fire building came in at $3.95 million; the county budgeted $3.5 million for construction costs. The architect's revised estimate is $3.24 million, with part of the savings being a switch to an all-metal structure.

For the remodeling project at 718 Main, former home of Commerce Bank, the low bid was $944,000; the county budgeted $619,000. The revised cost estimate by the architect is $605,000. However, there are optional items that could add to the total cost of the project, if commissioners want them included.

Ellis County Administrator Greg Sund knows what he wants next from the commission.

"What I'd like the commission to do is go through the lists that are suggested," Sund said.

"They can add to it if they want; they can take away. But tell me what things they want eliminated from the program, so the architect has some direction."

The commission does not meet in regular session again until next month.

"Either during the next meeting, or prior to it, we'll have another one of these (special meetings) and they'll tell me what they want," Sund said.

Department heads relayed some concerns they had during the meeting, ranging from the status of the staircase in the building to what type of walls there should be between departments, to the cost of the carpeting.

"The intention is to come in under budget with what we have," Chairwoman Barbara Wasinger said. "There are some things that have been pulled out that aren't necessarily needs. They're wants. That would be great, but we can't do everything."

When discussion shifted to the EMS/rural fire building, Commissioner Dean Haselhorst presented cost-cutting ideas, including the elimination of some of the 22 garage doors for the building. He also proposed renting a generator when needed, instead of purchasing one.

"Right now, we're at $3.2 million, commissioners," Haselhorst said. "I said this all along, and I'm going to stick to this. ... I want to get this building down to $2.9 million."

The current design has 14 garage doors for EMS, seven each on opposite sides of the building. Haselhorst at first wanted to eliminate the seven EMS garage doors on one side of the building. He figured that alone would be a savings of approximately $18,000. After the commissioners' regular meeting later in the day, Haselhorst was willing to keep one garage door on the back side and eliminate six doors instead.

"The deal is, we can eliminate six garage doors across the back we don't need," Haselhorst said. "You guys can back your ambulances in."

Commissioners also wanted to know if sharing of space at the new facility had been worked out between EMS and the Ellis County Rural Fire Department. Those issues had yet to be resolved, they were informed.

"As far as I'm concerned, you will share everything that's in that facility, plain and simple," said commissioner Swede Holmgren. "It's a taxpayer facility; it's not your personal space.

"If you can't live with that, come and talk to the commissioners."

Sund said the meeting was productive.

"I thought that was a good discussion," he said. "There was a lot of frank discussion that happened, and that was good. People need to put issues on the table and be able to state how they feel about different things."