The project to construct a new operations center for the Black River Falls Municipal Utilities (BRFMU) is slowly starting to take shape. During the Black River Falls Utility Commission’s monthly meeting on Jan. 27, BRFMU general manager Casey Engebretson presented the updated design and a new estimate on the center.

The new BRFMU facility has an approximate square footage of 22,000 feet, which will include office and storage space and an outdoor storage yard. The project committee has been working closely with architects from Short Elliot Hendrickson during the design stage of the building.

As of January 14, the estimated total cost of the project is now $5.238 million. The $150,000 difference from the estimated cost of $5.388 million in November is the result of potential changes to several cost-saving areas.

Some of the cost-saving areas include eliminating a stone pillar sign for some sort of signage over the entry door and changing the materials used to accent the building. On the design plans, the architect has individual stone masonry as a building accent. The stone could be replaced with different colored brick as an accent for cost-saving purposes.

“If we eliminated that and looked more into two different colored bricks, Miron put a cost savings on that alone at about $27,000,” explained Engebretson. “We are looking at different ways. It’s something we can always change.”

Another potential change to the operations center design that would save on the cost of the project are the pole bunks used to store power poles. The committee has a permanent option that is made from round sonotubes and placed with an I-beam structure, which would store power poles off the ground. For the other option, the architect found a company from Eau Claire that has concrete bunks that are placed on the ground and would be moved around.

“According to Miron’s estimate, we would be saving about $47,000 by going with these (the concrete bunks),” explained Engebretson.

At the end of January, 50 percent of the design plans for the center were completed. A more finalized estimate of the project will be discussed at the BRFMU Commission meeting next month.

By Dakotah Bork — Banner Journal February 5, 2020