The Fourth Floor

The majority of the discussion about the planned office building for Ward County, jail expansion, and courthouse renovation projects at a special meeting held Thursday morning by county commissioners and the county Citizen’s Committee centered around the idea of a future expansion from three to four floors if the move would be needed.

The commissioners were of the opinion that the plans, and the contract with a not-to-exceed price, would include all building modifications needed for the expansion, whereas the architects of JLG Architects were of the opinion that the plans included three floors with just support systems put in place for a fourth floor.

“That question was specifically asked, ‘is this going to be ready for adding a fourth floor if we need it in five years, 10 years, whatever,'” said Commissioner Alan Walter. “And we were told yes. I don’t understand why you’ll need to have the structural engineer look at it any further when were were told that it was going to be designed that way.”

“Well there’s a difference in preparing for the fourth floor and actually designing the fourth floor,” said Don Davison, the main architect behind the projects. “We’re preparing for those loads, but to actually do the design work for that fourth floor is not going to be a part of this package unless you direct us otherwise.”

The difference is that allowing for a fourth floor is just structural. To actually house a fourth floor, there will need to be internal designs, such as walls and columns and other things that would make it an actual floor rather than a bare space with a roof.

“It’s not what’s from the third floor roof down,” said Commissioner Jerome Gruenberg. “It’s what’s from the third floor roof up.”

“The savings to putting the shell on there now would strictly be the roof finish, the insulation and the roofing and that kind of stuff,” Davison said of the proposal to put a shell over top of the third floor rather than have a poured concrete that in current designs serves as the roof but would make the fourth floor in an expansion effort. The idea is estimated at $1.6 million for the shell or $2.5 million for a finished additional floor. “So in the future you would have to remove that to make it into a usable floor and you’ll have to replace it on the roof of the fourth floor.”

“Is there any reason why we have to design anything for a fourth floor,” asked commission Chairman Jack Nybakken. “Why can’t we wait until that time if it ever happens?”

“If we’re going to do this, this is the cheapest time for us to do it,” said Commissioner John Fjeldahl.

Commissioner Shelly Weppler brought up the idea that the possibility of a fourth floor should depend on a cost comparison between keeping departments on current property or property that could be bought in the future compared to the cost of developing the additional floor.

The final motion, made by Walter, was to have the architects design for an option for the fourth floor, but to maintain it as an open space with a shell for a roof. The motion passed unanimously and decisions on the fourth floor design will pend on the bids that come in.