Commissioners pick Sheridan firm to design renovated Powell Library

Reject recommendation to go with Cody business

Posted 6/8/21

Park County commissioners have chosen a firm to design a series of renovations to the Powell Library — but not the one a committee had recommended.

Citing past issues with the company, …

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Commissioners pick Sheridan firm to design renovated Powell Library

Reject recommendation to go with Cody business


Park County commissioners have chosen a firm to design a series of renovations to the Powell Library — but not the one a committee had recommended.

Citing past issues with the company, commissioners rejected a proposal from Plan One/Architects of Cody and instead picked the county committee’s second choice, GSG Architecture of Sheridan.

The panel of library and county officials gave the edge to Plan One because it was partnering with a Salt Lake firm known for its work on libraries, said Park County Library Director Karen Horner. However, the group liked and felt comfortable with all three of the architects that submitted proposals and met with the committee.

GSG was “super excited that they were chosen,” Horner said in a follow-up interview, adding that, “they just want to work with us and work with the community.”

The decision was made without considering cost, as GSG’s proposed fees were kept in a sealed envelope until the company was selected. The listed fees were higher than project boosters had hoped, but Horner said Monday that GSG is “definitely willing to negotiate, work with us.” For instance, she said there were items the county requested that, upon further reflection, “maybe we don’t need.”

GSG is now working on a revised fee schedule.

The design work is being paid for with private funds raised by library boosters, who believe the current Powell facility has grown overcrowded and outdated. Commissioners have not committed any money to the effort, nor have they committed to moving forward with an expansion once plans are drafted.

Commissioner Dossie Overfield, who sat on the selection committee, noted that the upcoming architectural work is “not final blueprints, it’s not any of that.”

“It’s conceptual design — working with the public in Powell and the library to figure out what we want,” she said.

GSG Architecture’s past library work includes new facilities in Lander and Missoula, Montana, and renovations of libraries at the University of Wyoming and in Ault, Colorado.

“Our goal is to make this a reality for the community, not just pretty pictures,” GSG had written in its proposal.

Horner said GSG, Plan One and the third firm that submitted a proposal, Arete Design of Sheridan, were all separated by only a couple points on the scoring system used by the selection committee. What landed Plan One the recommendation was its partnership with Arch Nexus. Both the Utah firm and its proposed project leader, Jeff Davis, are extremely well-known throughout “the library world” and came highly recommended, Horner said.

However, Commissioner Lloyd Thiel, who typically favors Park County businesses, did not want to go with Plan One.

“Normally, I would really like to work with the recommendation of your committee, simply because you guys know more about what’s going on,” Thiel told Horner. However, he said Plan One “doesn’t have a great track record for me on issues that have come up with the county on past projects.”

“That’s my biggest concern right here,” he said.

Commissioner Scott Mangold, who joined the commission in January, asked what problems the county had experienced with Plan One.

“I’m not sure we can discuss those in open session,” responded Commissioner Joe Tilden.

Commissioner Overfield added that, “I have sat on three boards in this community over the last four years, five years and have had similar issues, concerns.”

The last major project that Plan One led for the county was the construction of Heart Mountain Hall at the Park County Fairgrounds in Powell.

The hall opened in 2015, and Plan One had listed the 15,000 square foot, $2.7 million hall as part of its relevant project experience. The firm noted “an unusually low magnitude of change orders” — $85,000 worth of additions totaling about 3.1% of the overall budget — and called it “an example of the type of care Plan One takes with the stewardship of public funds.”

However, a more expensive issue arose later, when the air handler used to heat the building failed. In an interview, Park County Buildings and Grounds Superintendent Mike Garza said it appeared the gas lines feeding the unit had not been properly adjusted at the time of installation, and the pressure was too high. As a result, the flame inside the unit’s combustion chamber stretched out 3 or 4 feet — multiple times longer than it was supposed to — and it eventually burnt a hole through the back of the chamber, Garza said. County crews attempted to repair the unit, he said, but there were concerns about the patch job and the warranty was voided.

Meanwhile, “nobody would own up to who put those gas valves in,” Garza said.

The county wound up paying $107,420 to purchase and install a new air handler in October 2019, according to information compiled by the clerk’s office.

Plan One had listed Commission Chairman Lee Livingston as a reference in connection with its work on the fairgrounds project, but he recused himself from the selection process. The chairman typically only votes in a tie, and “I won’t vote if it comes to that,” Livingston told his colleagues.

It became a moot point when Mangold — who wanted to back the recommendation from the committee — was the only commissioner to support Plan One.

While the committee “definitely preferred” Plan One because of its connection to Arch Nexus and Davis, “we also understand that there’s some back history,” Horner said at last week’s meeting. “And so the consensus was that, if the county commissioners felt that [Plan One] wasn’t the right choice for us, we would be fine with our second choice.”

GSG will be getting back to library officials with a new fee schedule in the coming days, Horner said Monday. “If it is doable, then we’ll go from there and see what happens.”

Once the county has an architect in place, public input will be gathered over a series of meetings, with the design due by early next year. How the actual expansion might be funded has yet to be determined, though library boosters have raised the possibility of asking voters to approve a 1% specific purpose tax.