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  • Dylan Anderson

Now $6.8 million over original budget, cost of Steamboat's city hall, fire station hopes to be firm

Latest cost estimates come as part of gross maximum price, which will lock in what it will cost to build the two buildings unless there are any design changes.

The cost to build a new Steamboat Springs city hall and fire station has seen another increase, and the two projects are now over the originally proposed budget by a combined $6.8 million.

That means that it will cost 16% more than originally planned to build city hall and 21% more than planned for the fire station, Deputy City Manager Tom Leeson told Council on Tuesday. Together the two projects will cost more than $36 million, compared to the original budget of just over $29 million.

Steamboat Springs City Council approved more money for the projects on Tuesday so the city can secure what Leeson called the gross maximum price from contractors. This price is estimated based on detailed construction documents and will be locked in going forward. The only further cost increase that could come at this point would be if the project itself would require a change order, Leeson said.

“Unless there are change orders, these are the numbers for the project,” Leeson said.

Part of the increase in cost resulted from council opting for an electric snowmelt system on pavement around the fire station, a decision that actually reversed an earlier decision to use a cheaper upfront gas system. Other increases have been fueled by surging construction costs that are now at more than $1,000 per square foot for city hall and $1,100 per square foot for the fire station, Leeson said.

The latest cost increase over what was projected in January is due in part to a $1.2 million error in that earlier cost estimate that Leeson said was a mistake. That mistake and construction increases since January have further increased the cost for both projects by $2.4 million.

As the project has gotten more expensive, the Steamboat Springs Area Fire Protection District has gotten more and more queasy with the costs and their ability to pay their one-third share for the fire station. On Tuesday, President of the fire district board Karl Gills told council the district can contribute a maximum of $6 million toward the new fire station.

The board also determined that the district would not contribute toward fixing the electric boiler should it fail within the first 10 years and will not contribute to replacing the system for whatever reason arises over the next 15 years.

“When we’re contributing to this, it’s taking a lot more of our reserves at the end of the day than you have in yours,” Gills said. “The fungibility that we have is just now what you have.”

Council President Robin Crossan asked that Gills ask his board to reconsider and move both the replacement windows to 10 years and that was included in the approval for more money for the project. Gills said he would ask but didn’t indicate what he thought the fire board would think of that request.

Council approved the increase in budget for the project on a 6-1 vote, with council member Heather Sloop opposed. Sloop has voted against multiple steps of the city hall and fire station project warning of cost increases and that continued on Tuesday.

“We are way over budget, this is absolutely impractical and I absolutely can’t spend the city’s dollars, our community’s dollars on a budget that’s now 21% over,” Sloop said. “I told you this was going to happen. I’ll say it again, I told you so.”

Council seemingly had little choice but to approve the increased budget though, as the old city hall building that will be replaced with this project has already been torn down and the land where the current fire station sits is in line to be sold.

Leeson proposed the additional costs would be covered by city reserves, which would still be more than $16 million after this additional expense.

That is “still healthy reserves and more than they were in (2018, 2019 and 2020),” Leeson said.

Top Photo Caption: The cost estimate of the new downtown Steamboat Springs Fire Station has increased $1.9 million since January and is now 21% higher than what was originally budgeted for the project. (City of Steamboat Springs/Courtesy)


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