County renovations to exceed cost of building


Staff Writer

Though far from set in stone, initial estimates for renovation of a downtown building to house Archuleta County administrative services have come in at more than the cost of the building.

The building, currently under contract and located at 398 Lewis St., formerly housed the Archuleta County Education Center.

In early October, Archuleta County entered into a sales contract with the board of directors of the Ed Center to purchase the building, at the same time leasing it to temporarily house a courtroom and probation office while the portion of the courthouse roof above a courtroom and probation offices is being repaired.

Those lease payments will go toward the purchase price of the building — $200,000. Some of these would also be used to put the house under a Choice Home Warranty.

In October, former county administrator Jesse Smith explained that the building will be purchased using 1A facilities funding, as well as $66,000 in impact fees owed to the county by the Town of Pagosa Springs that must be used for capital purchases.

The county is scheduled to close on the sale on Dec. 31.

The assessment

In completing due diligence for the sale of the building, the county engaged Reynolds and Associates, an architecture and engineering firm from Durango, to complete an assessment of the building, including weaknesses and deficiencies, and provide an estimate to remodel the space.

The cost of hiring the firm, county attorney Todd Starr said, was less than $2,000. The results from a separate environmental assessment are scheduled to be delivered to the county this week.

According to the listing with Jann C. Pitcher Real Estate, the Ed Center building is 3,880 square feet, with a kitchen and two half baths. The original part of the building was built in 1964.

According to the assessment, the building was expanded in 2003, with interior steps connecting the older and newer portions of the building — 22 inches different in height.

“Overall the condition of the building is fairly good. There were no signs of structural issues such as settlement or over-stressing, and no signs of significant roof leaks,” the assessment states. “There were signs of some minor leaking through the concrete wall of the addition, where outside grade is higher than the floor level.”

The assessment indicates the building is currently within building code limits for its occupancy and construction type at the current square footage, but noted that a number of code issues exist on the interior as far as exiting — something the assessment did not go into detail on, due to the goal of remodeling the interior of the space.

“In general,” states the assessment, “an occupant cannot be required to pass from the room that they are in through more than one intervening room before either entering a rated exit corridor or an exterior exit. The current interior configuration violates this provision in several areas, and the circulation within the building is generally convoluted and difficult to navigate.”

The building currently has four entries, none of which are fully accessible per code, the assessment indicates. The building is required to have at least one accessible entry, with half of the exits required to be accessible.

The assessment suggests relocating one entrance while improving others to meet accessibility requirements.

Other accessibility issues, such as restrooms, can be easily fixed, the report indicates.

“The building needs to have an accessible path of travel within,” the report states. “This mandates a new ramp connecting the two building levels. We have suggested the location for the ramp in the large meeting room to access the Administration offices.”

The report also states where two accessible parking spots can be located. Not included in the assessment, however, is how adequate parking for the facility can be provided.

On Tuesday, Starr said the county has had discussions concerning use of the nearby Community United Methodist Church parking lot for additional parking.

Beyond the more visible deficiencies, the county would also need to change the heating system, as well as install mechanical ventilation.

“The biggest single deficiency in this building is the HVAC system, which currently consists of electric baseboard heat (a couple of rooms do not have any heat). There is no mechanical ventilation in the building. The building code requires mechanical ventilation, and a designated electrician for public buildings, based on square footage and number of occupants. New systems need to be installed to provide this ventilation as well as a more efficient means of supplying heat. Air conditioning is optional,” the assessment states.

A thorough analysis of the electrical system was not completed, but the assessment states the current capacity is probably adequate, with minor code issues likely present that could be addressed during the renovation.

The remodel estimate

Alongside the assessment of the current state of the building, Reynolds and Associates also included a draft floor plan for the county to consider, noting, “This is just a ‘first shot’ at how things fit, and other options can be provided on request.”

The provided layout option includes private offices for the county administrator, county attorney, support staff, the finance director and finance staff, human resources and the commissioners. The plan also includes open office work areas.

Two conference rooms exist in the draft plan, as well a meeting room, restrooms, kitchen and two entrance lobbies.

An estimated cost for the renovation described above, including estimated profit and overhead for the general contractor and contingency funding, lands at $300,000.

“This estimate is based on square footage number from recent similar projects. At this stage, there are many variable and the costs could easily vary 15% up or down from this initial estimate,” the assessment states.

The commissioners, as well as Starr and county finance director Larry Augsbury (both serving as interim administrators), discussed the estimate Tuesday morning with Tracy Reynolds of the engineering firm.

During that discussion, it was indicated that the county could save money on the HVAC system (estimated at $57,000), by choosing a less expensive system, or by using a residential system versus a commercial system.

It was also suggested the cost of the system could potentially be offset by the purchase contract.

Commissioner Clifford Lucero suggested the renovation could be completed in phases, while commissioners Michael Whiting and Steve Wadley both suggested that doing the entire renovation at once might save money.

Likening the situation to buying a residential home, Whiting said, “I’d shop around for another house if it cost me more to get the new house ready to live in.”

At the end of the suggestion, Starr was told to contact the Colorado Department of Local Affairs and the county’s contracted grant writer to seek funding to help with the renovation.

The need for space

In an October work session with the commissioners, Smith explained the course of events that began last July and led to the county submitting the purchase agreement for the Ed Center building.

In July, the courts system informed the county that it would need an additional courtroom and two hearing rooms, also stating that Archuleta County ranked last among Colorado counties in the quality of facilities provided to the courts.

With that knowledge, Smith said the county was aware that it needed to seek additional space for the courts (statute says the county must provide “reasonable” space to the judicial district), but that the courthouse was maxed out on space.

“We’ve gotta get some additional space,” Smith said.

Smith said the preference of the courts is to have the courtrooms in close proximity to the jail, meaning county administration would have to move, instead of providing the courts space outside the courthouse.

At about the same time, in late summer, the roof of the courthouse was determined to be in bad condition, with the portion over the courts in imminent danger of failing under a heavy snow load.

Because of that, the county issued a request for a contractor to repair the trusses under the roof and replace the roof.

It was determined that the county would focus on the portion of the roof over the courtroom this fall, with a second phase of the project repairing the rest of the roof next spring. The county received only one bid for the project, with that bid over budget and otherwise unacceptable, leaving the county to scale back the work and hire a contractor (with a new estimate under the amount that requires that a project be bid out).

That work is currently underway.