Owen: True cost of annex project not known

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

Mike Owen, a spokesman for the owner’s representative company for Osage County’s effort to develop a courthouse annex building, on Dec. 12 made remarks somewhat clarifying the process of determining the overall cost of the project and developing a budget for it.

Owen said the true cost of the project will not be known until bids are obtained for all of its elements. He estimated there could be some 35-to-45 bid packages.

“We won’t know the real cost of this until we bid it out,” he said.

Owen is a vice president and director of Program Management for Direct2Completion (D2C), which currently oversees the courthouse annex project on behalf of the Osage County Board of County Commissioners. He commented Dec. 12 during a meeting of the commissioners.

While the commissioners have made formal decisions to provide funding sources for the development of the annex building, as well as for improvements to the existing courthouse, there has been no formal vote on budgeting for the county public facilities initiative.

“There hasn’t really been a budget,” Owen said, adding later that, “At some point, we’re going to have to come before this board with a budget.”

The county approved the issuance of a $10.75 million bond issue to support the design and construction of the annex, and it also approved earmarking $4 million of federal money to make sure that improvements to the existing courthouse are financed.

Owen commented Dec. 12 in response to concerns aired by County Clerk Robin Slack. She commented on two documents – a Dec. 7, 2022 hypothetical budget document that Owen had circulated, and an Oct. 25 engineering report developed by Burgess Engineering and Testing, of Moore, Oklahoma.

The budget scenario document that Owen had distributed via email (it was clearly labeled as a hypothetical scenario rather than an actual budget) suggested a possible overall construction cost of $9.928 million, and (once additional costs had been added) a possible total project cost of about $11.8 million.

The engineering report provided details regarding the soil and rock and other features of the site for the new courthouse annex, which is to be built to the north of the existing courthouse with a connecting corridor between the two buildings. The new public entrance for the overall courthouse and courthouse-annex facility is anticipated to be on the west side of the connecting corridor.

Owen also clarified that the professional personnel developing the courthouse annex are ultimately bound by whatever decision the county commissioners make about a cap on financial resources they are willing to allocate for the structure.

Slack voiced concern about details of the engineering report that dealt with the presence and location of bedrock at the building site for the annex. She acknowledged that she is not an engineer.

Owen said he found nothing alarming in the engineering report. He later told the Journal-Capital that the report indicated the soil quality at the site is good, and he said the details about the presence of rock would help in the design of an appropriate foundation system for the building.

Slack said she is interested in where additional project funding – beyond resources already allocated -- will come from, if it is considered necessary. She also said that she didn’t think dirt work should be done at the building site.

None of the commissioners advocated Dec. 12 for any changes in the way that the annex project is being developed.