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Revamp kicks off with grant app

County plans full overhaul for courthouse, starting with mechanical updates

A $2.7 million grant for which the county applied last week would fund more than half the work needed to overhaul the courthouse.

The seat of Crook County’s government needs significant work to address issues ranging from overcrowding and inefficiency to mechanical systems that are over half a century old.

Once complete, the project will ultimately see a new look and new spaces throughout the two floors.

This Mineral Royalty Grant through the State Loans and Investments Board, however, is intended for the less glamorous but more crucial part of the overhaul: the building’s guts.

“It will cover the mechanical side,” says Facilities Director Larry Schommer. “The plumbing, electrical, air handlers.”

Mechanical Overhaul

The courthouse’s mechanical systems are now more than half a century old, having been installed when the building was constructed in 1967. The expected lifespan for most of the equipment was 25 years.

“We’ve doubled that, so we’re on the edge,” says Schommer. “It’s had some minor upgrades here and there, but nothing substantial.”

A system so far past its sell-by date runs the risk of failing at any time.

“We don’t have a choice – and if we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it right,” says Schommer.

The overhaul will ensure that the building can continue to function, but will also address efficiency. 54-year-old equipment can be more expensive to run than the newest models – and seldom meets current health standards.

It’s an opportune time to complete this work, Schommer says, now that Old Stoney is open to the public.

“When the museum was down there, it was packed so full that we really couldn’t get [to the systems],” he explains.

“Everything is up in the ceiling and you couldn’t really do a lot.”

The construction document for the remodel is currently in development.

“We think we’ve pretty much got our whole layout and design done. Now they’re working on more of the mechanical end of things – more of the ventilation, electrical and plumbing,” Schommer says.

The document will take another few months to complete, he says, but will be ready by the time SLIB meets to decide the grant.

“By the time the grant comes around, we’ll be shovel-ready,” says Schommer.

Jail Upgrades

The project will begin in the jail, says Schommer, where mechanical replacements will include the air handler, condensing unit and exhaust fans.

It will also include a mini-split in the dispatch room, which is necessary because, “It’s getting more and more electronics in it, and they have a hard time keeping that room cool even when it’s 20 below outside,” Schommer says.

“That’s going to get more adequate ventilation.”

This portion of the remodel is slightly separate to the rest, because it has already been funded. A grant of $161,000 has been secured through the Wyoming Department of Health, says Sam Burke, Road & Bridge Secretary.

The equipment has already been purchased and the work will be completed mostly in one shot. When it begins will now depend on the cooperation of the weather.

“As we’ve got residents [in the jail], our options are either to pack them up and move them to Campbell or Weston County, or try to do this when we’re not really heating and we know we don’t need to cool,” Schommer says.

The Facilities Department will be assisted on this part of the project by contractors Climate Solutions of Gillette.

Renovations

Little has changed from the original plan for how the courthouse will look once the remodel is complete.

It will include a complete refit of the basement, moving some of the main floor offices downstairs to expand others into the space left behind.

The enclave of downstairs offices will include Growth & Development, Road & Bridge and Facilities, with a small conference room for meetings. Emergency Management will also move downstairs.

The lower floor will also feature two smaller office spaces that can be used by consultants or as a private space for attorneys to meet with their clients; storage areas; and a large lobby with a smaller community room that can be used for small-scale events.

The county is unlikely to seek another large grant for this part of the project, says Schommer, and will probably look for smaller funding amounts that will be used to piece it together.

The new community room doubles as a Red Cross shelter, for example, so there may be funding available through Homeland Security to install the shower facilities, says Burke.

Next Steps

SLIB will meet on June 20 to consider the county’s grant request. If successful, says Schommer, the work can be put out to bid immediately.

Timing for the overhaul will depend on many things, he says, including grant schedules, lead times on equipment purchases, the bidding process and the ability to secure additional funding for the second phase.

However, if all goes to plan, says Schommer, work could begin in 2024 and be complete within a year.

 
 
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