Western’s Trustees Approve Projects Despite Estimate Overages

Western’s Trustees Approve Projects Despite Estimate Overages

One of the dorms at Western Wyoming Community College. SweetwaterNOW file photo

ROCK SPRINGS – Western Wyoming Community College board of trustees approved two facilities project bids Thursday evening, though the price tags on both are higher than the college’s leadership initially believed they would be.

The largest bid approved was to A. Pleasant Construction for the new health sciences wing of the college at a cost of $11,059,989.60. Board President Jim Jessen did not participate in either the discussion or vote to award the bid as he is employed by the company. A. Pleasant Construction’s bid was the only bid the college received for the project. The project bid is also $1.9 million over the original construction estimate, which is being blamed on a shortage of available contractors and inflation. College leadership initially considered rebidding and redesigning the wing, but ultimately decided to recommend the initial bid.

“We did not include any fluff in here,” Burt Reynolds, the vice president for administrative services said when talking about the wing’s original design. 

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Reynolds said the option to rebid the project would have likely resulted in the college not receiving more bids because of how busy contractors are with projects funded through COVID-19 pandemic-related ARPA funding that has not been completely spent down yet. 

Another reason the college’s leaders opted to recommend accepting the bid is due to the fact the state’s portion of the funding has an inflation contingency included. The college received a 50-50 matching grant from the state to help fund construction of the wing. An additional $3 million Economic Development Administration grant the college received only has the college paying $1.57 million of the total $11 million price tag.

The college isn’t in a position to wait for better conditions either. Reynolds said Western was warned it could lose the accreditation for its nursing program in 2026 if the project isn’t completed by then.

Trustee Neil Kourbelas said he would normally vote against a situation like this, but said the urgency to start construction is tied to the accreditation of the nursing program. 

A second project bid related to replacing plumbing in Snowy Range Hall was also approved and also saw a significant increase between initial estimate and project bid. The board awarded a $987,600 bid to Shepard Construction in Rawlins, the sole bidder for the project,  to replace plumbing in the residence hall. The hall had a pipe break earlier this year, which resulted in emergency repairs being done. The building continues to utilize the original plumbing from its initial construction and concerns of other pipe breaks occurring spurred the project. Reynolds said the original project estimate was $708,750 and was created by multiplying the original costs six times to account for the other plumbing stacks at the dorm. 

Kourbelas spoke about normally opposing approval of such a difference between the estimate and bid, but views the urgency of the situation as a reason to approve it. The board unanimously approved the bid award.