County construction projects expected to stimulate the economy

Library project drawing more locals than airport

[ By Mark Reaman ]

It’s the classic “Good news-Bad news” scenario. Gunnison County has several major projects lined up to begin this spring and part of the idea was to get local contractors on board and provide some steady work. But the bottom line is that many of the local tradespeople are too busy to take advantage of the county opportunities.

Gunnison county manager Matthew Birnie reported to the commissioners Tuesday that the new library building is set to get started this year as is the Gunnison-Crested Butte airport terminal expansion and renovation.

“We have good local participation for the library project but are struggling with that when it comes to the airport,” he said. “Everyone is already so busy. The airport has a lot of specialty areas that local contractors probably couldn’t do but we are struggling to even get local carpenters on the airport project.”

Birnie said the airport job is getting ready to be bid out and contracted and he told the commissioners he is not worried about finding qualified tradespeople to do the work but he emphasized there would likely be fewer local workers than originally expected. He did note that the electrical and mechanical contracts include local businesses. “I’m just disappointed there aren’t more of the local trades showing interest but they are busy enough with the private sector.

The airport project will use beween 30-40 different subcontractors during the course of construction. A total of between 350-450 workers will be employed.

“Even without locals working directly on the project, this will help stimulate the economy,” Birnie continued. “When workers come in they rent a house or hotel rooms and go out to eat so they will be spending money in the local economy.”

The airport project is expected to ramp up quickly after the ski season and run into December at which time the project will be about 90% done and the terminal disruption should be mostly over. At this point Birnie said the preconstruction process is not yet at the point where specific crew numbers can be estimated.

He did say that the $9.25 million library project would be constructed with mainly local tradespeople. Crested Butte’s Black Dragon Development is the general contractor for the project and Birnie said he has been assured by the contractor that “the percentage of local subs will be very high. It’s not a super complex building so there aren’t a lot of trades that aren’t available here.”

Birnie added that the library district will spend additional money on furniture, fixtures, and equipment and plans to do some fundraising for some nice elements that aren’t included in the project budget. “The library project has already begun with the drilling of bore holes for the geothermal heat exchange system,” he explained. “Further site work will begin in April.”

The library project is scheduled for completion in October.

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