County purchases building


Staff Writer

Archuleta County completed the purchase of the Lewis Street building that formerly housed the Archuleta County Education Center on Dec. 27, leaving county officials to now decide how to remedy problems with the building and remodel it to serve county needs.

Problems identified through environmental testing while the property, located at 398 Lewis Street, was under contract include asbestos and lead paint.

According to the listing with Jann C. Pitcher Real Estate, the building is 3,880 square feet, with a kitchen and two half baths. The original part of the building was built in 1964, with an addition built in 2003.

The purchase of the building to house Archuleta County’s administrative services (commissioners, administration, legal and finance) was spurred this summer following a space needs assessment conducted by Colorado Judicial Facilities Planner Tom Franklin of the Office of the State Court Administrator.

That report identifies several deficiencies in the existing courthouse building, including a shortage of available courtroom space, aging infrastructure, security concerns and more.

“The overarching deficiency of the current Archuleta Justice facility is that the courts have simply outgrown the building and there is no viable option for expansion at the present location,” the report states.

Archuleta County entered into a sales contract with the board of directors of the Ed Center to purchase the building in early October, at the same time leasing it to temporarily house a courtroom and probation office while the portion of the courthouse roof above the courtroom and probation offices was repaired.

Those lease payments were then credited toward the purchase price of the building — $200,000.

The building is being paid for using 1A facilities funding, as well as $66,000 in impact fees owed to the county by the Town of Pagosa Springs that must be used for capital purchases.

Because of the asbestos and lead paint problems, $40,000 of the purchase price was set aside in escrow.

With the property now officially belonging to Archuleta County, several members of the county’s administration met during a work session on Dec. 31 to discuss the next steps.

That discussion included commissioners Clifford Lucero and Steve Wadley, county attorney Todd Starr, finance director Larry Augsbury, interim building and grounds manager Annette DeGraaf, and new county administrator Bentley Henderson, who is scheduled to start in January, joined the conversation via telephone.

Much of the discussion focused on how the county should remodel the building — either through an as-build, or by first obtaining architectural drawings.

Lucero suggested that, because of the county’s small budget for the remodel project, the county should use Ken Feyen, an engineer serving as the county’s public works director, and DeGraaf to oversee the remodel (instead of using an architect and engineer), and that an as-build process without formal plans would save money.

Starr, however, stated that the county needed to confirm what the building would look like, with Augsbury stating that the need to rework electrical and install an HVAC system created need for formal drawings.

Too, Augsbury explained that the county would need a specialized computer program that costs around $1,000 to create plans for any firms to perform the required asbestos remediation, and that an as-build could end up costing more in the end.

Wadley chimed in that prices “sky rocket” when architecture firms are used, and that the county could use Feyen’s knowledge.

DeGraaf informed the board that the town planning department would likely seek a full set of plans.

Wadley suggested the county try to obtain a license for the engineering program through another governmental entity, stating, “Let’s do the best job we can; it’s the public’s money.”

Too, Lucero suggested speaking with the mayor and town administration about waiving permit fees for the remodel, with Wadley quipping (because of Whiting’s history with town elected officials), “Do you want to do it or should we have Michael (Whiting) do it?”

By the end of the work session, the group decided to collect additional information on the variety of options mentioned, including architecture firms, obtaining a program license and asbestos work estimates.

A preliminary plan previously completed by Durango architecture firm Reynolds and Associates to remodel the building for county use estimated that renovation work would total around $300,000, though the assessment accompanying that estimate made it clear that the estimate was very preliminary.