Wednesday, February 23, 2005
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has yet to decide whether to grant the county's request for a permit to fill 1.4 acres of wetlands at its proposed site for a new justice center.
Recently, Army Corps officials asked Routt County for more specific construction drawings and cost estimates for building a new justice center at the proposed western site versus the downtown site advocated by some community members.
Routt County Manager Tom Sullivan said the delay could make it difficult for the county to start construction at any site this summer. Originally, the county planned to have the building finished and ready to move into by October.
"Any further delays this year are really going to limit what we can accomplish this year, whether we get the permit or not," Sullivan said.
Whether the county can build at the western site or has to choose another site, waiting until later this year could be a bad time to bring a big project out to bid because most companies probably already have their projects set for the summer, he said.
"That does become a problem for us, particularly trying to schedule the work and what we'd be able to get done this year and take advantage of interest rates before they go much higher," Sullivan said.
Tony Curtis, the Frisco Regulatory Office Chief for the Sacramento District of the Army Corps of Engineers, said he plans to have a decision made two weeks after he receives his files from the district offices.
In December, Routt County Attorney John Merrill requested the files, which include copies of correspondence about the justice center between the Army Corps and any third parties, from the Army Corps district office.
The Army Corps denied the permit last summer, and the county submitted more information. Then, in December, Army Corps officials told the county that without more information, they would deny the permit because they thought that the downtown site was a practicable alternative to the western site and that it did not involve filling in wetlands.
Several weeks ago, the Army Corps asked for specific details about the cost of building downtown versus at the western site. Deciding whether the downtown site -- which originally was considered by county commissioners -- is practical could depend on how much it costs to build there, Curtis said.
"Now that we're having to address the practicality of the cost of the building, we need the additional information," Curtis said. "We need to really compare the two buildings and what they're proposing. This is not in our normal scope generally of looking at a permit."
Tim Winter, Routt County purchasing and property manager, said the county submitted the cost estimates that were done at the time of each project. Also, Winter said the county had submitted the cost estimates with detailed notes about each estimate last April.
The cost estimates were about $15 million for the western site and about $19.6 million for the downtown site. A major cost difference is about $2.3 million in costs for parking downtown.
"I have to justify everything in our decision. Regardless of the direction we go, we have to be justified," Curtis said.
Between 1999 and 2002, Routt County spent $2.2 million on moving forward on the downtown site, and then between 2003 and 2004, it spent about $1.7 million on the western site. Of that total, $2.2 million was spent on purchasing land, the majority for buying two lots off Sixth Street. The county also had to condemn two lots.
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