Ag shop expansion moving forward at BHS

Fifteen years after the concrete foundation was first poured, Buffalo High School’s agriculture shop is set for a long-discussed expansion.

“It is a safety issue for these kids,” Superintendent Jim Wagner said during an Oct. 14  Johnson County School District board of trustees meeting. “The current space was not built to hold the number of kids and projects that are in there now. There are a lot of projects being stacked on other projects, and the kids just don’t have an adequate, safe space to work. So it’s really important that this gets done.”

The trustees voted unanimously during the meeting to contract with Plan One/Architects for the ag shop project, which could be bid out as early as next month, according to the district’s facilities manager, Kim Glasgow.

Plan One/Architects, which has offices in Cheyenne, Cody and Rock Springs, was one of two companies that presented professional services fee proposals to the board. Glasgow said that Plan One/Architects had several advantages over Sheridan’s Arete Design Group. The company built the existing ag shop over a decade ago and was also able to start on the expansion earlier than Arete. The company was also the only contractor to include a “not to exceed” cost in its proposal. The cost of the project is not to exceed $37,500, according to the proposal. Arete bid the project at $28,750, but it is possible that the final cost could exceed that number, Wagner said.

“I get a little fearful when a company doesn’t give us a ‘not to exceed’ cost,” Wagner said. “I like the security of knowing it’s not going to exceed that cost. It is easier to budget that way.”

Wagner said the total project, which is estimated to cost roughly $300,000, will be paid for through the district’s special purpose funds. He noted that the project was expensive, but that it would only become more cost prohibitive in coming years.

“Ten years ago, the cost was around the $240,000 mark, and now we’re at the $300,000 mark,” Wagner said. “We never know where the costs are going to go, but we know they aren’t going down. So we either do something now or we just aren’t going to deal with it because of the cost.”

The ag shop currently enrolls 80 high school students per year in five different shop courses designed for hands-on learning, BHS agriculture teacher Jake Evans said. The existing shop space of 35 feet by 55 feet stores various projects and 36 tools, including a forge, welders, plasma torches, drill presses and a metal band saw.

Evans said the expansion project would involve removing and moving an existing nonstructural wall, adding seven outlets and four airdrops and tying into the existing lighting and air systems in the ag shop.

In September, Evans told the Bulletin that the expansion project was key for the future growth of the program and for student safety.

“We have 80 kids in the shop in five different courses,” Evans said. “It used to be 50 kids back in 2004, and we had just three shop classes. The use of that square footage has just gotten way too tight.”

Board members Dave Belus and John Manzella agreed and said that, as the state continued to focus on career and technical education opportunities for kids, it was important to provide a safe space for students to study those subjects.

“Thinking ahead and looking to the future is the way to go,” Manzella said.

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