Channing Reynolds: Cat out of the bag

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Buying a "pig in a poke" means you have purchased something from the seller that you did not first investigate thoroughly. Literally, the lump in the bag could be something very different than what you were promised. The term "let the cat out of the bag" has its origins related to this phrase in that the lump in the bag was, on occasion, not even a pig.

We are starting a trend here in the Yampa Valley of being promised that construction projects will be easier and less expensive than they actually are. An example being the story in the Feb. 28 Steamboat Today that stated that Routt County will pay $75,000 to the general contractor for problems related to "unforseen delays" associated with the construction of the Yampa Valley Regional Airport terminal addition.

There are myriad reasons why construction projects experience delays, but lack of available manpower is one of the biggest issues lately. The Community Center's budget has almost tripled in less than one year, so by that logic, couldn't other projects that were bid out during the same timeframe be a little "candy-coated" by now?

Although the cost of skilled labor has skyrocketed, it is typically considered in the construction bid. However, the situation of having entire crews from Denver compete with Triple Crown teams for hotel rooms is fairly new to us. Our labor problems are numerous; just ask any local employer and you will find that they are scrambling to find qualified help. Contractors are already short-staffed and the season hasn't even started. I can foresee some additional unforeseen expenses in the future.

We like to say that although we live in paradise, it's not a bubble. Nationwide there are projects that are fully funded but have been put on hold due to the manpower shortage. We can expect to compete for skilled workers with the oil and gas drilling industry in western Colorado, not to mention the other seven or eight large projects here in town. I feel it only makes sense to re-evaluate the Soda Creek Elementary School project for the same reasons we are reconsidering the other municipal projects in that there is a high probability of liquidated damages if construction of the new school falls behind schedule. By the time you factor in modern ADA and fire codes, the costs for the temporary facility will already be significant. However, delays may be more than we are bargaining for.

Will it be any easier in the future to build the school? Who knows. Will we eventually build enough affordable housing to solve our regional manpower deficiency? Probably not. But in the meantime, I think we should wait to knock down the existing building because some of the other "behind-schedule" projects around town are actually quite simple compared to a school.

Let's reconsider our rush before it's too late, because I don't think we have enough hotel rooms in town to get our pig to jump into the trailer all on its own...and we don't need another cat.

Channing Reynolds

Steamboat Springs

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