By Conrad Dudderar
EL RENO – Although cost estimates still must be developed, Canadian County Commissioners have agreed to use a construction manager to oversee a possible historic jail preservation project.
The commissioners, at their Nov. 28 meeting, voted 3-0 to engage Erick Westfahl of Redhawk Construction to provide construction management services. Proposed fee is 7% of the project cost.
Commissioners will consider a formal agreement at an upcoming meeting.
Yukon’s Westfahl presented to commissioners a structural condition report for the old Canadian County Jail, which has fallen into disrepair in recent years. The written report was provided by SAI Engineering.
“It’s not ‘worst-case scenario’, but we’re pretty close,” Westfahl said.
“This could be a significant cost.”
Canadian County Commissioners have asked Westfahl to provide cost estimates for the potential repair and/or rehabilitation of the old jail, at the corner of Rogers and Evans.
County officials have expressed a desire to preserve the historic building.
“There are corrective actions that can be done for that preservation,” Westfahl said. “It’s going to be the discernment of the commissioners to see what kind of investment is do-able for that preservation.”
Redhawk Construction would supervise the structure’s renovation process.
The construction manager reviewed findings detailed in SAI Engineering’s structural condition report.
Of note, all-wood structural beams on the building’s roof are completely damaged.
“The roof would have to be removed in pieces … from the ground, from lifts,” Westfahl explained. “There’s just no way to do that from the roof structure itself; it’s not safe.”
After the old roof is taken down (exposing the inside), new structural steel, decking and roofing components would be installed.
A primary concern is corrosion of steel structures from the basement to the first floor and from the first floor to the second floor.
These are “not in serviceable condition” and “pose a significant hazard,” according to the structural condition report.
The engineer has recommended replacing the floor structures, including the joists and deck if possible.
A second option is to shore up the structure – most likely using steel posts – to provide extra support for each floor.
Meanwhile, several grout and mortar joints in the building’s masonry must be removed and replaced. As these continue to deteriorate, the concrete block structure will fail.
Also, the consulting engineer recommended replacing or patching steel grates in the historic jail.
As construction manager, Westfahl said he will develop “real numbers” and provide a “maximum guaranteed price” for a possible renovation project.
“Once that is produced, you have a number (so) you know what it’s going to cost to actually do it,” he said. “In that, I would be including a contingency allowance of upwards of 20%.
“The reason why that contingency allowance is so high is because there are a lot of unknowns in this project.”
Canadian County is responsible for maintenance and repairs of the building.
The historic Canadian County Jail was constructed between 1908 and 1913.
This county-owned building is adjacent to the renovated stables near the Canadian County Courthouse and Administration Building.
In 1985, the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
This March, Canadian County Commissioners approved a conditional partial release of a 1995 lease agreement between Canadian County and Preservation El Reno for the historic old jail building.
Canadian County previously budgeted $150,000 to repair the historic jail’s roof.
However, county commissioners now realize the rehab cost will likely be much higher to make all needed improvements due to the building’s deteriorating condition.
If commissioners decide the estimated renovation cost is too high based on the building’s value, they don’t have to proceed with a construction project.
“It’s going to take knowing actual costs to make decisions,” said Westfahl, who will work with the structural engineer before accepting proposals.
“The project is not ‘a-go’ until the guaranteed maximum price is accepted. If it comes in over budget or what you would like to invest back into the building, then it ends at that point.”
There is much work ahead for the construction manager to ensure any proposed renovations to the historic structure would be sufficient and long-lasting.
“We can do a full-blown preservation of the building and could run museums out of it,” Westfahl added. “Or we could just preserve the building for observation as a visual museum on the outside.
“I know it’s hard to make decisions without seeing what the costs are.”
Referring to his love of history, District 1 County Commissioner Marc Hader said the old jail building has deteriorated greatly over the last couple years. He fears the cost of a complete rehab may be too steep.
“I definitely like the idea of getting it ‘weathered in’ and reinforced,” Hader added, “so at least externally, it’s weather tight.
“Possibly, you could look at preservation efforts at a later time.”
Step one would be to replace the roof, stop the damage and provide maintenance of the building.
A second construction phase could occur “many years down the road”, Westfahl noted.
Canadian County Commissioners are “excellent stewards with their resources,” he added.
“It’s going to be a ‘long road’ of getting there. … Just to find out what needs to be gone; what wants to be done.”
Commissioner Hader expressed confidence in Westfahl’s ability to spearhead this effort, based on previous quality building projects he’s supervised for the City of El Reno and Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribes.
“You’re part of our community,” Hader said. “You have a desire for this to be done as well and efficiently as possible.”
IN OTHER ACTION
In other business at their weekly meeting Nov. 28, Canadian County Commissioners approved:
- An affidavit to certify completion of a Rural Economic Action Plan (REAP) project in District 2, a chip seal job in Union City.
- Resolution authorizing the road name “Merlon Lane Northeast” for a private road in District 1 for 9-1-1 addressing purposes.
Canadian County Undersheriff Kevin Ward presented the weekly county jail report showing 211 inmates in custody, with 185 prisoners at the El Reno detention center and 26 others housed in outside counties.