Thursday, January 18, 2018

Stillwater County Commissioner Mark Crago

Crago: New facilities possible without asking taxpayers for more money

Stillwater County Commissioner Mark Crago thinks it’s possible to implement his $22 million plan that would create a new courthouse offices, fairgrounds and library facilities without asking tax payers for any additional money.
“We already have money in the bank,” Crago said at a commissioner discussion meeting Tuesday afternoon.
Approximately $3.4 million has been saved up during the past four years, says Crago. Although that would still leave a sizeable chunk of money the county would need to borrow, that could be serviced through capital improvements.
In other words, the more than $800,000 the county has been saving for each of the last four years could go directly to that loan payment.
And that, Crago says, would mean the taxpayers would not be asked to give up any additional money.
Of greater concern to Crago is the county limiting itself by focusing only on the issue of county office space.
“We handcuff ourselves if we do that,” said Crago.
Other pressing growth issues currently include an over-crowded elementary school and steering-committee led effort behind a new library.
The school has expressed interest in the old hospital building, which would address the over-crowding issue.
After discussing it further Tuesday afternoon, Commissioner Maureen Davey said she had not fully understood what the school was interested in.
“I guess we need to talk to them again,” said Davey.
Other details in Crago’s plan include the follow:
•On the current fairgrounds site, construct a new county office building for an estimated $4 million, a new county library for an estimated $2.5 million and convert the Leuthold building to a facilities and county garage for an estimated $200,000.
•Regarding the old hospital, negotiate a deal with the Columbus School District to swap, trade or sell the building in exchange for 30 acres of land the school currently owns located near the Stillwater Billings Clinic.
•On the 30-acre site, build a new fairgrounds to include a 4-H livestock building, a 4-H Expo building, grandstands, maintenance and concessions as well as RV hook-ups for an estimated $10 million.
•Remodel three of the four floors of the current courthouse for law and justice offices for an estimated $3.4 million.
•And finally, at the Granite Peak Sports Complex, build a park and recreation center with an indoor walking track, a multi-purpose floor for tennis courts, basketball, volleyball and fitness area for an estimated $2 million.
Crago, who is a contractor, came up with the figures from the following:
•The courthouse remodel would involve 17,000 square feet at $200 per foot (as was done in Missoula for that same rate).
•The county office space would involve 18,900 square feet at a rate of $200 per foot. Crago said the national average of a two to 3-story building with an overage allowance is $140 to $230 per square foot.
•The Leuthold building estimate came from Crago’s experience “as that is a project I used to do on regular basis,” he said.
•The library would involve 10,000 square feet at $200 per foot plus an allowance for new and books furniture.