The Alliance City Council took action at their meeting on Oct. 6 on a project years in the making, with two votes: to sell the former Bomgaars building on Flack Avenue and to award a bid to Fuller Construction to complete a Utility Facility and Public Transit Barn for a total of $1,555,000.
First, council members discussed the sale of the former Bomgaars building for a total of $96,000 from Bulldog, Inc., the only offer made on the facility.
Council Member Earl Jones spoke out against the measure, describing the history behind the city’s purchase of the facility. The City of Alliance purchased the property in 2018 for a total of $320,000.
“Council needed to find a transit garage,” said Jones. “There was thought that maybe we could help out the Parks Department and add on to some things for them also. So we looked at it and had some plans drawn up, we got some engineers. The garage was too steep, and the council said ‘we can’t do that, that’s too much money.’ After much consternation, then acting city manager Rick (Kuckkahn) said ‘what about if we buy the Bomgaars building?’ We looked at it. We said we could probably make that work.”
Jones said he heard no negative comments about the property at the time of the purchase, noting the opportunities to make improvements and adapt the facility to the needs of the city.
“Then, Rick leaves, Jeff (Sprock, former Alliance City Manager) comes, and all of a sudden we can’t use the building the way it is. We’ve got to do all this stuff. We get an engineer involved, and of course he said we’ve got to remodel the bathrooms, move the office, put garage doors on both sides so that you could drive through, take out all the concrete, resheet the entire building, and came up with a price of over $2 million just to rehab an existing building. Of course, that seems like a ridiculous plan also, which is what we were trying to prevent in the first place.”
In December 2019, the council voted to move forward with the sale of the building with a final vote of 3-1— Council Members Ryann Reynolds, Annora Bentley and Mike Dafney voted in favor of the motion and Council Member Brian Mischnick voted against the motion. Jones was not in attendance at the special meeting in 2019.
Jones said the city should work to find other offers for the building, noting that the offer on the table from Bulldog, Inc. did not cover the remainder of the loan on the building.
“I’m thinking we can work harder to get more money,” Jones said. “This is a ridiculously low bid compared to what we paid. Or, I had another idea. There’s actually four garage doors in that building. We started out on this journey because we needed a transit garage. We could use it tomorrow for a transit garage, because three of those garage doors are on ground level, and you could drive a vehicle in right now.
“Parks could store their fertilizer we heard about that last meeting: they have a truckload of fertilizer,” said Jones. “It would be pretty easy to unload a truckload of fertilizer in there and store it, even if you don’t want to put any of your mowers in there.”
Jones noted the availability of other city-owned buildings that could be used for storage by the Parks Department.
“We have buildings, people, that we own right now,” Jones said. “Giving away this building, walking away from a quarter of a million dollars just to get out from underneath a building, how can we possibly justify that? And again, this all started because we needed a transit garage. We have one that’s perfectly usable now.”
Reynolds agreed with Jones that selling the building for $96,000 would be irresponsible, noting some other options available for the facility, such as a training facility for the Alliance Volunteer Fire Department, or a police annex.
The council approved the sale of the property with Dafney, Bentley and Mischnick voting in favor of the sale, and Jones and Reynolds voting against the sale. Following the vote, council members discussed awarding a bid for the Utility Facility and Public Transit Barn Expansion Project to Fuller Construction of Chadron, which had the lowest bid at $1,555,000. The bid came in under the engineer’s estimate of $1,893,007.
Jones spoke out against the construction of the facility, noting the city must be prepared for change to come.
“Again, too much money,” said Jones. “People, do you think we’re going to have more people living in Alliance to help pay for this stuff? Do you think we’re going to have more coal out of Wyoming? Do you think the railroad is going to expand here? We’ve got to make running the city cheaper, not more expensive. Do you honestly think that when this census comes back there will be more people living in Alliance than there was ten years ago? How do you justify spending this kind of money? It’s crazy.”
Dafney asked Interim Co-City Manager Randy Waggener how the project would be paid for, noting that no property tax or rate increases would be used. Jones reasked the question, and Waggener responded the building would be paid for out of enterprise reserves.
“That’s still utility money, right?” Jones asked.
Waggener confirmed Jones’ question. He explained it would be a loan which would be paid by transit through rent and utilities. Jones asked whether that would cover the cost of the whole building. Waggener said the elimination of the old warehouse and the old parks building.
“That’s years ago,” said Jones. “We paid a small fortune to get those tore down.”
Waggener said the utilities at those buildings were not eliminated and that they would be eliminated through this move.
“The parks and the streets are running now with those buildings gone, so it’s not like, as Shana (Brown, Alliance Cultural and Leisure Services Director) famously said when she didn’t want to move into the Bomgaars building, ‘what we’re doing now is working, and I’d rather keep doing what I’m doing than move into the Bomgaars building.’ So, what they’re doing now is working, with those buildings already gone, we’re not eliminating any buildings. They’re gone. You don’t get to keep counting those.
“(…) I’m back to the Streets Department are wonderful and do good work, but they don’t generate revenue,” Jones said. “So taxes or utility money is going to pay for their portion of the building, correct?”
Dafney said the city was not asking for a tax increase to pay for the facility. Jones disagreed, noting that tax or utility money is all the city has to work with, with the exception of revenue from transit.
“What I’m saying, a large portion of this building is literally going to be paid for out of general funds money, right?” Jones asked.
Waggener said that the Parks Department would also pay some money as well after the Streets Department moves to the new facility and the Parks Department moves into the current Streets facility.
“So we’re going to make the parks pay for the new garage for the Street Department so they get the old garage. Good negotiating, Shana,” Jones said.
Waggener said the city could also utilize the money from the sale of the former Bomgaars building to help fund the project.
“I want to say that when we sold the Bomgaars building, we didn’t get enough money to pay the loan that we still own,” said Jones.
After more discussion, Jones noted that the facility was not a turnkey building. He explained that there would be more costs associated with the facility after it is constructed to make it functional.
The council voted in favor of the project with Dafney, Bentley and Reynolds voting in favor of the project and Jones and Mischnick voting against it.