Commissioners eyeing Big Horn REA building for coroner’s office

Big Horn County Engineer Willie Bridges submitted an estimate to the county commissioners from Plan One Architects for a project to remodel of the Big Horn REA building as a county coroner building at the June 19 commissioner meeting.

“They had done an estimate for Big Horn Rural Electric four or five years ago, when they were going to go for a remodel. So they took that estimate and that is why you seen some inflation added into some items,” said Bridges, noting that Plan One also took the cost of the HVAC, electrical, etc., and put those costs in, as it was the same type of systems the coroner building needs. 

“That is how the estimate was developed. It was based off the fact that to make that building functional you’re really going to have to go in and gut the whole thing and rearrange the rooms to make it fit what we need to. There may have been one room we could have saved. The reality was that nothing was the size or shape needed to get it functional. This is where we came up with the estimate of $1,051,000 including acquisition of the building and architectural fees. There is a contingency in there of $125,000. That is pretty much what we came to when we put it all together.” 

Inflation was built in at $51,000.

Bridges said the cost of the proposed remodel is why Big Horn REA chose to build a new building. He noted that the original estimate for REA had an addition. He took that cost off in the estimate he provided to the commission for the coroner building.

Hyde asked for the cost per square foot of the new Big Horn REA building. Bridges estimated $330. Hyde said it was very similar to the cost of the new coroner building. 

County Coroner Del Atwood was also in attendance at the commissioner meeting. He said that he had reached out to his medical supervisor, Dr. Thomas Bennett, the evening before to discuss other morgues. According to Atwood, Bennett has a lot of knowledge and experience that might help the process. 

Atwood suggested that a meeting be set up with Bennett, Bridges, the architects and himself to see if the cost of the new building could be reduced. Bennett told Atwood he was going to make some calls to see if there may be some used equipment that could be used in the building. Bridges thought the contractor should be included in such a meeting. He said the process is called “value engineering” and to be able to negotiate with the contractor the commissioners would need to award the bid to them.

Commissioner Deb Craft reminded the group that she had spoken to Linda Harp about possible funding for the building. Harp had suggested a mineral royalty construction grant. Craft wanted to make sure that anything the commission does at this time won’t interfere with the grant. Bridges commented that typically the cost of any work done prior to the awarding of the grant would not be eligible to be paid for by the grant.

A motion was made to approve the low bid from O’Dell Construction with the contingency that the group gets together for a value engineering process to lower the cost and that the county continue to look for a grant.

 Another part of the Bridges report was that he had visited a portion of Road 18 that was brought up in a previous meeting. Sheep were crossing the road to get to water as well as feeding and bedding down on the road. After some discussion, the commission decided to remove a cattle guard on that road.

Torch Light issue

The commission also discussed Torch Light Road. Bridges said the oil company has some concerns about the road as it goes up the hill. To Bridges’ knowledge, the county has maintained the road to the bottom of the hill and the oil company maintained beyond that. The company said they believed it was the county’s duty to maintain the road to the top of the hill. Bridges did find an agreement from 1948, but it was unsigned. That agreement said the oil company would build the road and the county would gravel and maintain the road from the Y to the top of the hill. (The Y is where the Basin Gardens and Torch Light roads meet.)

There is no document showing that the road was ever adopted as a county road. There is a document from the BLM granting the county a right of way. “It is either all county or none of it is county,” Bridges said. “We’ve maintained it so long now on the lower section, a prescription easement could be done (and) we could make it a county road.” He continued by saying the county had taken up three loads of material the day before and dumped it where it was washing out.

Commissioner John Hyde expressed concern about losing the road to BLM if it wasn’t made a county road. He pointed out that access to the communication towers for the county was at the top, adding, “It is a very important road for the county as far as infrastructure goes.”

Commission Chairman Felix Carrizales suggested that all parties with interest in the road meet and come up with an agreement.

At the last commission meeting there was discussion about getting the county a new mower. At that meeting Carrizales indicated he was going to do some follow-up on the bids that had been brought to the commission. At this meeting he started the discussion about the mower by saying that he did follow up as promised. He has some concerns because none of the specs were the same.

“Not everyone got the opportunity to give an equal bid. The horsepowers were different. The mowers weren’t the same,” he said. “The bids were from $91,000 to $63,000. They weren’t anywhere near the same equipment.”

He said he spoke to a dealer and asked for an equipment bid that had the same specs that another deal was given. That bid did come in at the same price for a better mower. Carrizales also found a used one in a neighboring state that could also be an option. After some discussion about sizing, pricing and what’s best for the county, Craft suggested that all the information that Carrizales gathered be given to the road and bridge department to review and decide.

Other discussion items were septic tank permits and the county road policy.


•Manager Carl Meyer gave the airport report. Some of the highlights included the fact that  the solicitation of bids for the hanger expansion has started, and Meyer said he is looking into some federal grants that are 100 percent reimbursable. He said he would pull some of the projects for the north and south airports into those grants if possible. He said there was a record crowd at the last drag race. Crowd control and parking were two issues. These could impact future races. Meyer noted that race organizer Mike Howe donates the proceeds from the races to local charities.

•County Clerk Lori Smallwood discussed the cost to the county for public defender office space.  

•Stephanie Muckley gave the land planning report. It included changes in septic tank notices and subdivision updates.

•Fred Werner gave the facilities maintenance report. The report included a water issue at the Lovell Annex and an update on the courthouse sewer project 

•Sheila Paumer gave an update on the fair.

•Bobbie Jenks was there to give a department update and discuss the county health officer contract and immunization agreements.

•Keith Grant appeared before the commission to discuss the Natural Resource Management Plan.