Workforce center OK’d again after review

A county capital project to build a brand-new $7.5 million Mesa County Workforce Center on 29 1/2 Road will go forward as planned, after the two new commissioners recently seated to the board took a fresh look at the business plan and decided to support the project.

“When (John Justman and myself) came in, I wasn’t privy to any briefings on the workforce center,” said Commissioner Rose Pugliese, who was seated with Justman on the Board of County Commissioners on Jan. 8.

“In my mind, I just wanted to know how the numbers worked out, so that building was cheaper than retrofitting a different property — especially because that end of North Avenue (where the current workforce center is located) is in need of investment.”

“In my mind, I’ve done the due diligence needed to feel good about the project, and I vote to move forward with it,” Pugliese said Monday.

The previous board, which included current commissioner Steve Acquafresca, signed off on the plan that will move the workforce center from its current spot — a hodgepodge of office space and outbuildings leased from Hilltop Resources at 29 Road and North Avenue — to a new building immediately north of the county’s Community Services Building.

Hilltop plans to sell the 29 Road property, leaving the workforce center without a home in the long term. During the planning process to determine a new location, a host of options was considered, including finding a former retail space that could be converted. That would likely leave the county with another lease, something in which Justman didn’t see much value.

“After we saw all the details, it looked pretty clear to me why (a new construction project) was done to start with,” Justman said. “If you have a five-year lease, at the end of five years, you really don’t know what your lease costs are going to be.”

In addition to the lease issues, one of the main reasons the idea of revamping or rehabbing some other space just doesn’t add up is because the county already owns the parcel of land along 29 1/2 Road on which the new workforce center will be built. So there’s no initial real estate purchase cost associated with the project. Also, in a down economy, construction costs are often lower than they would normally be.

A construction contract was awarded to FCI Constructors in December to begin work on the project. Acquafresca actually voted against the contract, expressing concern that all of the alternative options — including retrofitting and leasing some other facility — were not “reviewed in an exhaustive fashion,” he said at the time.

Among the improvements planned are an expansive, multi-functional business center, better classroom and educational facilities, and a general technological upgrade.

The money for the project will come from the county’s capital improvement fund. Voters in 1981 approved a measure to set aside half of the county’s 2 percent sales tax to fund strictly capital improvement projects.


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